PART V—The Single Tax

From: Max Hirsch: Democracy versus Socialism (1911)
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Content of Part V

CHAPTER I— Introduction
CHAPTER II— Objections to Principles
CHAPTER III — The Method of Reform
CHAPTER IV— The Ethics of Compensation
CHAPTER V— The Sufficiency of the Reform
CHAPTER VI— Mr. Edward Atkinson’s Objections
CHAPTER VII— Professor Francis A. Walker’s Objections
CHAPTER VIII— Confirmation by Socialists


MAN does not live by bread alone. Even if it were shown that Socialism could and would provide all with more wealth than ordinary artisans now enjoy, there would still arise the question, whether it would not deprive men of other possessions; of possessions so far superior to a mere increase in wealth that past generations have cheerfully sacrificed not only wealth, but life itself, in their defence. In the foregoing examination it has been shown that not only would Socialism sacrifice these higher possessions of mankind, but that this sacrifice would not be accompanied by any improvement in the material condition of the people.

At the same time has been indicated the cause which produces injustice in the distribution of wealth, and the secondary evils thence arising, as well as the reform which can remove this injustice, not only without sacrifice of the higher possessions of mankind, but while adding to them. This cause we found to consist of the legislative creation of private monopolies, especially of the monopoly of the land. 

The removal of this cause, by the termination of all monopolies, which owe their origin to special laws, and the appropriation by the social body of all natural monopolies, would, therefore, terminate the evil results, which flow from this cause. Before entering upon a detailed exposition of the manner in which this reform may be applied, so as to combine the greatest production of wealth with absolute justice in its distribution, and without sacrificing any of the higher possessions of mankind, it may be useful to recapitulate some of the conclusions arrived at. 

The principal ones were :—

  1. That all the members of a State are entitled to equal rights and equal natural and social opportunities. 
  2. That every member of a State is entitled to the full and exclusive possession of all the wealth which his labour produces from equal opportunities with all others, or which he receives under contract for services rendered by him under the same conditions. 
  3. That social injustice arises solely from the infringement by the State of the claim of all to equal rights and opportunities; such infringements involving the violation, by the State and by individuals, of the right of each to the full and exclusive possession of the produce of his labour or services.
  4. That social justice, therefore, cannot be achieved by further violations of the social and individual rights of the members of the State, but can be achieved solely by the abolition of existing violations of these rights. 
  5. That the principal infringement of the equal rights of the members of the State consists in the legislative creation of private monopolies, especially the monopoly of the land, and that all such monopolies would disappear if the State, abolishing all taxation, were to appropriate and use for social purposes the annual rental value of all natural monopolies, i.e. of monopolies arising from exclusive or special rights to land. 
  6. That the abolition of monopolies, destroying the power of monopolists, would also terminate the excessive power of the owners of competing capital over labour, and would enable every labourer to secure wages of equal value to that of the entire product of his labour. 

In support of these conclusions the following distinctions, economic and ethical, were drawn between capital and all other forms of wealth, i.e. labour-products on the one part, and land in all its forms on the other part. 


  1. Labour-products are the result of individual exertion, performed singly or in co-operation with others.
    Land is not a product of human exertion, and the value of land arises, not from individual exertion, but from natural differences of productivity, made potent by social growth and necessities. 
  2. All labour-products are ephemeral, the sole purpose of their production being their consumption. Land exists forever, and monopolies accumulate. 
  3. Social progress reducing the requisite exertion in the production of labour-products, consequent increase of production reduces their value.
    Social progress does not create any ability to produce land; it merely increases the competition for land, and consequently adds to its value. As a result of the facts set forth in (2) and (3), the value of land, i.e. natural monopolies, largely exceeds the value of accumulated labour-products in every country. 
  4. Labour-products cannot arise without the use of land. Land does not arise from the use of labour-products. 
  5. Labour-products are not limited in the sense that their quantity cannot be increased. On the contrary, the more labour-products are consumed the more are produced.
    Land is limited. The more land anyone person appropriates the less is available for appropriation by others. 
  6. Private ownership of labour-products, inclusive of capital, does not add to natural rent and interest.
    Private ownership of land does add spurious rent and interest, as well as profit, to natural rent and interest. 
  7. Taxes on labour-products, increasing their price, tend to reduce the consumption and production of labour­products and the employment of labour. 

Taxes on the value of land, reducing the monopoly and price of land, tend to increase production, the employment of labour, and therefore consumption. 


  1. Labour-products being the result of individual exertion, the right to their possession is unequal, i.e. dependent upon service rendered.
    Land not being the product of exertion, the value of land being the result of social growth and necessities, the right to the possession of land is equal, i.e. no one can have a better right to the possession of land than any other. 
  2. The value of labour-products is the measure of the service, which their rightful owner has rendered to the community.
    The value of land is the measure of the service, which the community is expected to render to the owners of land. 
  3. Private ownership of labour-products results from a natural right antecedent to any legislation.
    Private ownership of land originally arises from violence and fraud, subsequently sanctioned by legislation. 
  4. Private ownership of land involves the perpetual infringement of property rights; it enables the owners to perpetually appropriate wealth made by others without rendering service in return. 

Private ownership of labour-products does not involve any infringement of property rights; it does not enable the owners to appropriate wealth in excess of the value of the services rendered by them. 

Objections to Principles

THE conclusions set forth in the preceding chapter, or several of them, have been, and are being, contested by socialist writers as well as by their opponents. The same objections being frequently urged by several authors, those have been selected for refutation here who claim notice, either by their representative character or by their power of argumentation. 

“If labour alone gave property, the landowners’ case is much better on Mr. George’s principles than he admits. Suppose by labour a piece of land was banked and enclosed from the sea—made, in short, not a part of the land, originally entailed on the puniest,’ etc.—Mr. George must admit a right to it in the man whose labour made it. But what is the difference between the case put and land in general, except that in land in general there was, before labour was put on it, what has been called the ‘prairie value’? That is what, if anything, was ‘entailed on the puniest,’ etc. Tax that, confiscate that, but not the stored labour which is on the land.”[1]

“It is important to notice that, though in common talk we separate the two (land and capital), and though political economists have given a scientific dignity to this rough classification of the instruments of production, distinguishing as ‘land’ that which has been provided by ‘Nature,’ and as ‘capital’ that which has been made by human industry, the distinction is not one which can be clearly traced in dealing with the actual things which are the instruments of production, because most of these are compounded of the gifts of Nature and the results of human activity. …

“The natural capabilities of land are increased, and, indeed, even called into existence, by the mere development of society. But, further, every foot of agricultural and mining land in England has been improved as an instrument of production by the exercise of human labour. 

“First, of human labour not on that land itself; by the improvement of the general climate, through clearing of forest and draining of marsh; by the making of canals, roads, railways, rendering every part of the country accessible; by the growth of villages and towns; by the improvement of agricultural science; and still more, by the development of manufactures and foreign commerce. Of all this human labour no man can say which part has made the value of his land, and none can prove his title to monopolise the value it has made. 

“Secondly, all our land has been improved by labour bestowed especially upon it. Indeed, the land itself, as an instrument of production, may be quite as truly said to be the work of man as the gift of Nature. Every farm or garden, every mine or quarry, is saturated with the effects of human labour. Capital is everywhere infused into and intermixed with land. Who distinguishes from the mine the plant by which it exists? Who distinguishes from the farm the lanes, the hedges, the gates, the drains, the buildings, the farm-house? Certainly not the English man of business, be he landlord, farmer, auctioneer, or income-tax commissioner. Only the bold bad economist attempts it, and, we must add, some few amongst our allies, the land-nationalisers. … 

“When we consider what is usually called capital we are as much at a loss to disentangle it from land as we are to find land which does not partake of the attributes of capital. 

“For though capital is commonly defined as wealth produced by human labour, and is destined, not for the immediate satisfaction of human wants, but for transformation into, or production of, the means of such satisfaction in the future, yet railways, docks, canals, mines, etc., which are classed as capital among the instruments of production, are really only somewhat elaborate modifications of land. The buildings and the plant with which they are worked are further removed from the form of land, but we lump the lot as capital. All farming improvements, all industrial buildings, all shops, all machinery, raw material, live and dead stock of every kind, are called capital. And just as there is a purely social element in the value of land, so there are purely social elements in the value of capital, and its value, in all its forms, depends upon its accessibility and fitness here and now, and not on the labour it has cost. The New River Company’s Water shares have their present enormous value not because Sir Hugh Middleton’s venture was costly, but because London has become great.”[2]

The “fine old crusted Tory,” Lord Bramwell, writing on behalf of a body whose principal object is to maintain the existing system, thus agrees with the spokesman of the Fabian Society in asserting that no distinction can be drawn between capital, i.e. labour-products, and land. Lord Bramwell takes the case most favourable to his contention, “a piece of land banked and enclosed from the sea—made, in short,” and triumphantly claims that if this piece of land rightfully is private property, all other land also may rightfully become private property. If the premise is true the conclusion is inevitable. But is it true? Lord Bramwell has treated it as an axiom; has made no attempt to prove it. Yet a slight examination shows that it is erroneous, and reveals the origin of the error. Land in the sense of the dry surface of the globe—that is, in the restricted sense—is confounded with land in its wider sense, as including all the energies and matter of nature outside of man and not altered by his activity. The sea is land as much as an adjoining field. It is land covered with water. Human labour removes the water from the land and raises the level of the land, but it does not” make” the land. If thereby it creates a value, that value belongs to him who exercised the labour. The value of the improvement belongs to the improver, but not any value of the land, i.e. any value, which may attach to the position in which he places his improvement. These two values are so easily separated that it is a widespread practice so to do. In Great Britain, where landlords are by law entitled to claim the foreshore on which their land abuts, rent is habitually paid by those who reclaim the foreshore. The landlord, not the improver, takes the land value. If the State, instead of the individual landlord, “confiscates” this value, it does exactly what Lord Bramwell demands. It abstains from confiscating “the stored labour on the land,” and does confiscate the value, not due to stored labour, and which he erroneously terms” prairie value.” 

The Fabian pamphleteer argues his objection more elaborately. His arguments, moreover, are of several kinds. One is that no distinction can be drawn between land and capital, because “most” forms of capital “are compounded of the gifts of Nature and the results of human activity.” The term “compounded,” however, is a very loose one. The only meaning which can attach to the sentence in which it occurs is, that most forms of capital consist of gifts of nature altered in place or form, or in both respects, by human activities. This is true, not merely of “most” but of all forms of capital and wealth. This fact, however, does not prevent any human being from apprehending the difference between a river and a cup of water; between a clay-bed and a brick; between a deposit of coal and a ton of coal at the pit’s mouth; between a deposit of ironstone and a locomotive. Though the cup of water, the brick, the ton of coal, and the locomotive are “compounded of the gift of nature and the results of human activity,” they are, nevertheless, or rather on account of this compounding, easily distinguishable from the river, the clay-bed, and the deposit of coal and ironstone, from which they were separated by human labour. 

The second argument used is, that social activities, of which “no man can say which has made the value of his land,” “have improved land as an instrument of production.” This is true, and it is equally true that the result of these social activities cannot be distinguished from the value of land. Being the result, not of individual activities, but of social activities, they rightfully are common property and not individual property. They, therefore, must be regarded and have been regarded throughout this work,—as by all Land Nationalisers and Single Taxers,—as part and parcel of the value of land. 

It is, however, different with regard to those improvements effected by labour “specially bestowed upon the land,” which, in his third argument, the pamphleteer alleges also to be indistinguishable from the land itself. Is it true that a building cannot be distinguished from the land on which it stands? Every building-lease proves the contrary. Is it true that the hedges, fences, gates, drains, and buildings on a farm cannot be distinguished from the land of the farm? It is done every year in Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, and New Zealand, as well as in other parts of the world, where improvements are exempted from taxation, which falls upon the land alone. It is likewise done wherever the tenant’s property in farm improvements effected by them is recognised by law or contract. Similarly, everyday experience proves that the capital of a mine, its shafts, drives, machinery, and build­ings, can be differentiated from the natural deposit, which, together with this capital, constitutes the mine. For whenever a landlord charges royalty to a mining company, both of them draw this distinction, and the appropriation of the royalty by the State would nationalise the land of the mine without infringing upon the capital of the mine. 

The fourth argument is, that such capital as railways, docks, canals, mines, and the buildings and plants with which they are worked, as well as the New River Company’s Water Shares, though capital, cannot be “disentangled” from land. This statement, like the preceding ones, is the result of an insufficient analysis; of the inability of socialists to separate monopoly from capital. The improvements which constitute the “road”—levelling, cuttings, bridges, ballast, sleepers, and rails, as well as the rolling stock, station buildings, repairing shops, administrative buildings, and any furniture and machinery therein—constitute the capital of a railway and have no analogy with land. The land on which the buildings stand, or on which the road is laid, as well as the exclusive privilege to the right-of-way over the continuous track, constitutes the land. The union of these two classes of things forms a railway. Yet there is not the slightest difficulty in separating the capital and its value from the land and its value. That the application of the same analytical principle to a mine yields the same result has been shown already. Nor is it necessary to do more than point out their applicability to docks, canals, the property of water companies and similar undertakings, the value of which consists partly—and in the New River Company almost entirely—of the value of special privileges in the use of natural media. 

The allegation that “the English man of business” does not distinguish between land and capital, if true, would be serious. For seeing that capital, being a labour­product, is ephemeral, while land is eternal, and legal privileges to the special use of land are not exposed to wear and tear, its truth would cast serious doubt on the intelligence of English business men. The allegation, however, is erroneous. Business men, English as well as foreign, are in the habit of capitalising incomes from land, or incomes arising mainly from the privileged use of land, at a higher rate, other things being equal, than incomes arising from the use of capital. Interest at the rate of 4 per cent from railway shares is regarded as a good return; but the same interest is considered exceedingly unsatisfactory when derived from shares in a cotton factory. Or to put it in another way: an income of £ 1,000 from ground rents would be worth £ 34,000 in the market, when a like income from any competitive industrial undertaking would be worth no more than £ 20,000, and probably less. Men of business, therefore, do not deserve the reflection cast upon them. 

Finally, attention must be drawn to the crudeness of classification which applies the term “instrument of production” alike to a machine and to land. If socialists were to be more accurate in their classification, if they were to separate the means and instruments, which men employ in production from the opportunities on which they are employed, many economic and ethical errors would be avoided. 

Another series of arguments, differing from those contained in the preceding extracts but coming from the same quarter, must now be examined. They are contained in the following extracts :—

“They (Land Nationalisers) use the argument that capital, unlike land, is created by labour, and is therefore a proper subject of private ownership, while land is not. Socialists do not overlook the facts on which this argument rests, but they deny, on the grounds already partly stated, that any distinction can be founded on them sufficiently clear and important to justify the conclusion drawn. But, supposing we assume it true that land is not the product of labour and that capital is, it is not by any means true that the rent of land is not the product of labour and that the interest on capital is. Nor is it true, as Land Nationalisers frequently seem to assume, that capital necessarily becomes the property of those whose labour produces it; whereas land is undeniably in many cases owned by persons who have got it in exchange for capital, which may, according to our premises, have been produced by their own labour. Now, since private ownership, whether of land or capital, simply means the right to draw and dispose of a revenue from the property, why should the landowner be forbidden to do that which is allowed to the capitalist, in a society in which land and capital are commercially equivalent? Virgin soil, without labour upon or about it, can yield no revenue; and all capital has been produced by labour working on land. The landlord receives the revenue, which labour produces on his land in the form of food, clothing, books, pictures, yachts, racehorses, and command of industrial capital, in whatever proportions he thinks best. The ownership of land enables the landlord to take capital for nothing from the labourers as fast as their labour creates it, exactly as it enables him to squander idly other portions of its products in the manner that so scandalises the land nationalisers. When his tenants improve their holdings by their own labour the landlord, on the expiration of the lease, remorselessly appropriates the capital so created by raising the rent. In the case of poor tenants holding farms from year to year in Ireland, the incessant stealing of capital by this method so outraged the moral sense of the community that the Legislature interfered to prevent it long before land nationalisation was commonly talked of in this country. Yet land nationalisers seem to be prepared to treat as sacred the landlords’ claim to private property in capital acquired by thefts of this kind, although they will not hear of their claim to property in land. Capital serves as an instrument for robbing in a precisely identical manner. In England industrial capital is mainly created by wage­workers who get nothing for it but permission to create in addition enough subsistence to keep each other alive in a poor way. Its immediate appropriation by idle proprietors and shareholders, whose economic relation to the workers is exactly the same in principle as that of the landlords, goes on every day under our eyes. The landlord compels the worker to convert his land into a railway, his fen into a drained level, his barren seaside waste into a fashionable watering-place, his mountain into a tunnel, his manor park into a suburb full of houses let on repairing leases; and lo! he has escaped the land nationalisers—his land is now become capital and is sacred. 

“The socialists admit that labour has contributed to capital and that labour gives some claim to ownership. The socialists, however, must contend that only an in­significant part of our capital is now in the hands of those by whom the labour has been performed, or even of their descendants. How it was taken from them none should know better than the Land Nationalisers.”[3]

The first allegation is, that even if capital were distinguished from land as a fit subject of private ownership on account of its being the product of labour, “it is not by any means true that the rent of land is not the product of labour, and that the interest on capital is;” the tacit assumption being, that both interest and rent are the result of human labour, and that, therefore, no distinction can be drawn between them. In one sense, both interest and rent are the result of human labour, i.e. both reach the owner in the shape of labour-products. In another respect, however, they differ widely. Natural rent is not the product of individual labour but that of the superior opportunity on which labour is exercised.[4]If it is admitted that all the members of a society are entitled to equal opportunities, it must also be admitted that rent is a common possession of all of them and cannot be rightfully reduced to private ownership. 

Interest, like rent, is no deduction from the product of individual labour; but, unlike rent, is also no deduction from the product of common labour. It is the product of individual services rendered by the owners of capital.[5]Interest, therefore, cannot rightfully be made common property, unless capital can rightfully be made common property. If, then, it is admitted, as, for the sake of argument it is admitted by this writer, that capital is not a proper subject of common ownership, it follows that interest also is not a proper subject of common ownership. 

The second argument is, that existing capital has not generally been produced by those who own it, while land has in some instances been acquired with capital produced by those who owned it, and the complaint is urged, that Land Nationalisers “seem to be prepared to treat as sacred the landlords’ claim to private property in capital acquired by theft (legal theft), although they will not hear of their claim to property in land.” 

Before replying to this argument and complaint, the question must be asked, What is the object of social reform? Is it to redress injustice committed in the past, or is it to prevent injustice being committed now and in the future? The former is impossible. Who can say which parts of the capital now existing were rightfully acquired by their owners and which were not? Even if the capital wrong­fully acquired by present owners could be separated from that rightfully acquired, who knows the legitimate claimants and can restore it to them? Obviously, these difficulties are insoluble. Moreover, if the private appropriation of land were an injustice, which, committed by men now dead, affected none but their dispossessed contemporaries equally dead, on what plea could the private ownership of land be condemned now? Inflicting no present or future injustice, and the removal of past injustice being impossible, no valid claim to the dispossession of present owners could be advanced. 

The only possible object of social reform, therefore, is the prevention of present and future injustice. The question whether some or, most of the existing capital has been wrongfully acquired, therefore, does not concern us. Present capital will have disappeared in a few years. What is of importance is to prevent the wrongful acquisition of capital now being made or which will be made in the future. That this writer knows that private ownership of land alone gives to its owners the power to wrongfully acquire capital; that he also knows that the abolition of such private ownership would prevent capital being wrongfully taken from those who make it now, or will make it in the future, seems to be shown by the two concluding sentences of the foregoing quotation :—

“The socialists, however, must contend that only an insignificant part of our capital is now in the hands of those by whom the labour has been performed, or even of their descendants. How it was taken from them, none should know better than the Land Nationalisers.” 

It is the same with the claim that some land has been acquired by present owners with wealth produced by them. Men are entitled to the produce of their labour, but not necessarily to that which existing injustice enables them to obtain in exchange for the produce of their labour. A slave is no less entitled to his freedom when he has been sold than when he is in the hands of the original captor. Private ownership of land and monopolies being an infringement of the equal rights of all, conferring upon their owners the legal right to appropriate the wealth belonging to others, the question how men came to be owners of them cannot affect the right of all others. Even if the government of a country has sold land and monopolies against wealth produced by the purchasers, the right of all others to the wealth, which they produce remains intact. As this right is violated as long as private ownership in land and monopolies is recognised, private ownership, even under these circumstances, is a wrong, and must therefore be abolished. 

A pamphlet, Property in Land, professes to show: Firstly, that the owning of land is justifiable on exactly the same grounds as the owning of any other material object; and, secondly, that land or any other thing, may be owned by some without transgressing the equal rights of others. The pamphlet is too elaborate to permit of the quotation of such parts of the arguments used as are not disputed. These, therefore, will be reproduced in summarised form. 

Labour can produce nothing. It can only alter the form or place of matter. “That land is not the produce of labour affords no grounds for placing property in land on a different footing from property in other things.” 

“There is no form of wealth natural or artificial that is not strictly limited. The number of gold coins and the quantity of bullion … of pig-iron, lead, copper, etc., in the world is limited; and instead of these things being producible in infinite quantities, the quantities are so definite that a very small change in the supply or demand for any of them is sufficient to cause great fluctuations in price. Not only is it a fact that every kind of wealth is limited in quantity, it is also the fact that it would not be wealth unless it were so limited.” … Therefore, “land does not differ from, but agrees with, all other kinds of property in being limited.” 

“The assumption that land is the common inheritance of mankind, as a generality, looks quite axiomatic; but when we reduce it to a particular case, we reduce it to an absurdity. The assumption is, that each of my readers and all the inhabitants of Timbuctoo are part proprietors of the land of Ottawa, and that no one can take possession of an acre there, without usurping our rights.[6]Land being made by no man, anyone who takes possession of un­occupied land does harm to no one. After the land has been cleared, enclosed, and cultivated, the claims of fresh emigrants to a share in it, would lead to perpetual fighting. … The basis of property is not the securing to each of the produce of his labour, for labour produces nothing, but the acknowledgment of the priority of claim, which is the only way to avoid continual strife.” 

Dealing at length with arguments advanced by Herbert Spencer in Justice, the following summary of the objections to the same is given :—

“The arguments given above may be summed up as follows:—The theory that land ought not to be private property rests solely on the assumption that the natural media are common property, in the sense that they belong equally to all men—an assumption which looks so rational that it has been accepted and endorsed by most of the great writers for centuries past, yet it will not stand criticism. The first corollary from the so-called axiom, that all natural objects are the common heritage of mankind, is that, as no one ought to use the property of others so as to destroy it, therefore, no one ought to use any natural object as fuel or as food, or in any other way that destroys it. If this reductio ad absurdumcan be explained away the next corollary is that, as all material objects form part of the common heritage, the title to private property must be in all cases not merely imperfect, but absolutely bad. Again, if we accept the dictum that no one ought to appropriate any natural object unless there is enough, and as good, left for everybody else, then nothing would ever be appropriated.”[7]

The first argument advanced by Mr. Spence is, that as labour cannot create anything out of nothing, labour­products are not “made” by labour, and therefore stand in this respect on an equality with land. The obvious reply to this contention is, that while land would exist in the absence of man, labour-products would have no existence in man’s absence. Likewise, all land would continue to exist if men were foolish enough not to use their energies productively; but labour-products would quickly disappear. Labour-products are, therefore, differentiated from land by human exertion. The manner in which they are differentiated does not affect the question. 

The contention that all kinds of labour-products are limited as land is limited is even more preposterous. Labour-products are limited only by two conditions, land and labour. The material of labour-products becomes accessible through land, as the dry surface of the globe; labour separates them from land. Labour, that is the number of human beings and their efficiency in production, is a constantly increasing quantity, and, so far, no limit has been discovered to the material of labour-products. Labour-products, therefore, are unlimited in the sense that man has not yet discovered, if he ever will discover, the limit to their production. 

Land, even in this same sense, that of the dry surface of the globe, however, is limited. Only here or there can man add to it, by converting a small area of swamp, lake, or sea into dry land, and these additions are unimportant and themselves strictly limited. Nor does the area of land grow in other ways. The more land is appropriated by one man, the less land is available for appropriation by others. Hence the area of land is limited, while the quantity of producible labour-products is, as far as man can see, unlimited. 

The third and fourth contentions are, that, if land is the common inheritance of mankind, the inhabitants of Timbuctoo and of all other countries are part proprietors of the land of Ottawa, and that “no one can take possession of an acre there without usurping the rights of” all others. 

The same contention is urged in a more incisive manner by Wm. E. H. Lecky :—

“If the land of the world is the inalienable possession of the whole human race, no nation has any right to claim one portion of it to the exclusion of the rest. The French have no more right to the soil of France than the Germans. Inequalities of fortune are scarcely less among nations than among individuals, and they must be equally unjust. … And what possible right, on the principle of Mr. George, have the younger nations to claim for themselves the exclusive possession of vast tracts of fertile and almost uninhabited land, as against the teeming millions of the overcrowded centres of the old world?”[8]

Admitting that all men, without distinction of race or colour, have equal rights to all the earth, it by no means follows that none of them may take possession of any part of it; what does follow is, that no one of them may take more than his equal share of land, without compensating all others for the special privilege which he assumes. 

All men being equally entitled to the use of land; man being unable to live without using land; man being also unable to live in society without regulations regarding the use of land—it becomes the duty of every social body to frame such regulations as will ensure the equal rights of all its members to the use of land. If all mankind formed one social body, the contention would be true, that this social body must frame regulations safeguarding the equal rights of all men to the use of the whole earth. As long, however, as men are associated in several and distinct social bodies, justice is satisfied, if each of these social bodies frames regulations safeguarding the equal rights of all its members to all the land which each of these social bodies controls. As between the members of each social body, justice requires such regulations to be framed, whether they are or are not equally framed by other social bodies. 

It might, however, be contended that, on the principle of equal rights to land, no social body is justified in appropriating the rent of land for purposes beneficial to its own members alone; that the rent of all countries belongs equally to all mankind. If nations excluded the members of all other nations from citizenship this con­tention might be of some value. Seeing, however, that the rent of land is the only fund from which governmental expenditure can be met without injustice; that such expenditure, equitably made, confers equal benefits on all citizens; the admission to citizenship of the members of other nations confers upon all who claim citizenship an equal share in the rent of land. 

This also is the answer to Mr. Lecky’s contention that the younger nations of the world have no right, as against the teeming millions of the old world, to the exclusive possession of vast tracts of almost uninhabited land. These young nations prefer no claim to such exclusive possession, in the only sense in which the term can be legitimately used here, i.e. that they deprive the members of older nations of the use of such land. Unable, even if they were willing, to bring the land which they control to the inhabitants of the older world, they have no objection to the latter coming to that land; nay, are anxious for them to do so. When, therefore, they have appropriated rent for common purposes they will have recognised the equal right of all men to their land. 

It is true, some of these younger nations exclude or limit the admission of one or another inferior race, and in so far infringe this principle of equal right. This exclusion, largely due to causes and sentiments which originate in the one-sided competition arising under the existing system, would disappear with it. It, however, rests to some extent also on the perception that the admission of such inferior races must tend to reduce the adaptation to social life of future generations. How far this is true and whether, if true, it would justify the exclusion of inferior races are questions outside the present discussion. 

The fifth contention is, that priority of claim, and not the securing to each the product of his labour, is the basis of property, because in this way alone can perpetual fighting be avoided. The question arises at once, priority of claim to what? To the whole earth, to a continent, to a province, or to how much less of the earth’s surface? It might be said that it can be left to each society to regulate the extent to which it will admit anyone’s priority of claim. That, however, is no answer to the question to what extent ethics enforce the recognition of priority of claim. 

Nor is it possible to answer this question, for ethics cannot recognise priority of claim as a basis of property. Even if, between two contemporaries, priority of claim could confer a valid title, their action or non-action cannot affect the rights of succeeding generations. A child cannot be held to have lost its natural rights because its father failed to claim his own. Otherwise men might be rightfully refused their freedom because their remote forefathers had sold themselves into slavery or because they had failed to claim their freedom. 

The last contention, similarly directed to prove that land can rightfully be converted into private property, consists of the assertion that three corollaries drawn from the doctrine that natural media are common property, establish its absurdity. 

The first and third corollary are practically identical, the first including the last. It is, that “as no one ought to use the property of others so as to destroy it, therefore no one ought to use any natural object as fuel or as food, or in any other way that destroys it.” 

As no one can use any natural media continuously without destroying them, in the only sense in which men can destroy anything, i.e. lessening or destroying their usefulness to mankind, the prohibition includes all natural media. Ex hypothesi, all men possess equal rights to the use of all natural media. Therefore, it cannot be a true corollary from this doctrine that none has any right to the use of any natural media. On the other hand, it is clear, the equal right of all is maintained, if none of them takes more from the common stock than any of the others can withdraw therefrom. Likewise, if anyone of them takes more from the common stock than each of all the others can take, and fully compensates all the others for the greater privilege assumed by him, the equal right of all to natural media is fully maintained. Not non-use of natural media, but equality of use or compensation for unequal use, is the logical corollary of the doctrine of equal right to the use of natural media. 

The second corollary drawn by Mr. Spence is, that “if all natural objects form part of the common heritage, the title to private property must be, in all cases, not merely imperfect, but absolutely bad.” 

This contention is true, in so far as all title to private property is bad, as long as the equal right of all to the use of natural media is infringed upon. But if this equal right is recognised, the title to private property in labour­products is rendered perfect. For these reasons :—

All men having equal rights to the use of all natural media, each of them has full right to the use of natural media not desired by others. If more than one desire to use any, each is entitled to an equal use of them with these others. If they allot the use of them to one amongst them, the others are entitled to compensation for the relinquishment of their equal right. 

All natural media become accessible to man through land. Where land is valueless, no man or only one man desires the use of the natural media to which it gives access. Land obtains a value when more than one desires its possession. If its use is allotted to one of them, the other or others must use land giving access to less desirable natural media. The value of any piece of land, i.e. its rental’ value, therefore, measures the advantage in the use of natural media which it affords to the possessor over that which can be derived from the use of land having no value and open to all. Hence, if the rent of all valuable land is paid into a common fund from which all may withdraw equal shares, directly or indirectly, the equal right of all to the use of all natural media is maintained. Those who have withdrawn less from the common stock than others, have participated equally with these others in the resulting advantage. Equality of right to the common possession being thus maintained, each is fully entitled to the separate possession not only of the natural media thus withdrawn from the common stock, but also to any additional value, however great, which his labour creates therein. 

When, however, the equal right of all men to the use of all natural media is disregarded; when some withdraw more from the common stock than others, without making compensation to these others, the title to private property in labour-products is imperfect, because the title to the material composing them is bad. 

Finally, there must be considered the arguments advanced by the late Professor Huxley against the theory of natural rights generally and that of the equal right to land specially. Set forth at great length, they are nevertheless fully stated in the following extracts :[9]

Endeavouring to refute equal natural rights in the social state, he takes the case of two men, sole inhabitants of an island, stalking the same goat to which each of them has a full natural right, and states: [10]

“If each insisted upon exerting his full natural rights, it is clear that there is nothing for it but to fight for the goat. … On the other hand, if the two men followed the dictates of the commonest common sense not less than those of natural sympathy, they would at once agree to unite in peaceful co-operation with each other, and that would be possible only if each agreed to limit the exercise of his natural rights so far as they might involve any more damage to the other than to himself. That is to say, the two men would in reality renounce the law of nature and put themselves under a moral and civil law, replacing natural rights which have no wrongs for moral and civil rights, each of which has its correlative wrong.” 

It seems obvious that Professor Huxley did not fully consider the problem. He fixed his attention upon the maintenance of the natural rights of one of these two men, whereas the problem before him was, how to maintain the equal natural rights of both of them to the goat. For if they “fight for the goat” and the stronger of them takes it, the equal right of the other is clearly infringed upon. The maintenance of the equal natural right of each of them to the goat requires, therefore, just such an arrangement as Professor Huxley describes under the term “moral and civil right.” The equal division of the goat between these men, for instance, far from being a “renunciation of the law of nature,” would be the method adopted to give fullest recognition to the law of nature. 

In addition to this imperfect and, therefore, misleading recognition of the problem, there is confusion of thought. Moral right is contrasted with natural right. Yet if the social state is natural to man; if moral law is the law obedience to which furthers and disobedience to which hinders life in the social state; then obviously moral law is the natural law of man in the social state, and moral rights and natural rights are identical. 

Equally misleading is the use of the terms” moral rights” and “civil rights” as denoting identical things. If civil rights are necessarily moral rights, no unjust custom or law has ever existed or ever can exist. If every moral right has always been recognised as a civil right there is no such thing as growth in social morality. Society has then been as moral at its beginning as it is today and ever will be, and our laws and customs are morally identical with those of the most degraded cannibals. 

Apart from this absurdity, Huxley’s moral rights are evidently nothing else but natural rights under social conditions; and further, admitting that the moral law enforces equality of rights—”no more damage to the other than to himself”—he thereby condemns as immoral inequality of rights. Yet this admission is made in the course of an argument in favour of the exclusive right of some to the earth. 

Professor Huxley’s second endeavour is to show the erroneous nature of the contention that, labour being the only basis of property-rights, private property in labour­products can coexist with equal rights to land. In support of this view he states: [11]

“By parity of reasoning it would seem that I might say to a chronometer maker: ‘The gold and the iron in this timepiece, and, in fact, all the substances of which it is constructed, are parts of the material universe, therefore, the property of mankind at large. It is very true that your skill and labour have made a wonderful piece of mechanism out of them, but these are only improvements. 

Now you are quite entitled to claim the improvements, but you have no right to the gold and the iron, these belong to mankind.’ ” 

The error in this argument is so obvious that it ought not to have remained undetected by a much lesser man than Professor Huxley. It is the same confusion between common and equal rights previously exposed. Men have equal rights to land, because they are equally dependent upon the use of land for the maintenance of their lives. Their equal right does not, therefore, as does a common right, prohibit the use of the land by anyone of them with­out the consent of all others. On the contrary, each of them is free to use the land without permission from anyone, provided he infringes not the equal rights of all others. If, then, a man uses the land for the purpose of extracting gold and iron from the same, he has as much right so to use it as in any other way. The gold and the iron so extracted by his labour become his exclusive property, provided that by extracting them he has not infringed the equal right of all others to the use of land, i.e. that he does not use land for this purpose which gives him advantages greater than all others can obtain from the use of other land. If he uses land, which gives him such advantages, his title to the gold and silver is vitiated till he has compensated all others for this infringement of their equal rights, i.e. till he has restored equalness. Provided he has done so, the chronometer maker’s exclusive right of property in the gold and iron is not only compatible with the equal right of all men to the “material universe,” but is a necessary consequence of such equal right. 

It may be contended that the recognition of exclusive property in a “part of the material universe,” i.e. gold and iron, admits the possibility of exclusive property in all parts, i.e. the whole of the material universe. This contention, however, overlooks the essential difference between the ownership of labour-products, composed as they must be of matter, and the ownership of the material universe, the land. The difference may best be illustrated by contrasting exclusive property in a fish taken from the ocean, and exclusive property in the ocean itself. The one does not infringe equal rights. All others may equally take fish from the ocean. The other does infringe equal rights; no one but the owner may take fish out of the ocean. If anyone does, the fish rightfully belongs to the owner, not to him. Property-rights in land, therefore, instead of being identical with property-rights in matter separated from the land, deny such property-rights to all but the owners of land. 

Lastly, Professor Huxley sets himself to prove that if labour is the basis of exclusive rights of property, land must be subject to exclusive property. As follows [12]:—

“In a state of nature, I doubt if ten square miles of the surface of the chalk-downs of Sussex would yield pickings enough to keep one savage for a year. But thanks to the human labour bestowed upon it, the same area actually yields, one way or another, to the agriculturist the means of supporting many men. If labour is the foundation of the claim to several property, on what pretext can the land, in this case also, be put upon a different footing from the steel pen?” 

The arguments previously used—the distinction drawn between property-rights in the source of all matter, the material universe, and property-rights in matter separated from this source—evidently apply to this contention as well. For labour spent on land cannot add to the desirable matter contained in it; it can only make such matter more accessible. Clearing, fencing, draining, the erection of farm-buildings, and similar improvements are made for the purpose of giving easier access to the elements of fertility in the soil; as mining improvements are made to give easier access to minerals below the soil. In either case, the object in view is the withdrawal of desirable matter from the land. Even manures are frequently applied for the purpose of freeing otherwise insoluble ingredients of the soil; and in other cases are added in order to restore elements previously extracted, and to be themselves again extracted almost at once. 

The labourer is entitled to exclusive property in the additional accessibility due to his past labour, as he is entitled to exclusive property in all the matter which, owing to this greater accessibility, he separates from the land by present labour. But he cannot be entitled, by virtue of his labour, to exclusive property in the source of the desirable matter, the land itself, for the reason that his labour did not and cannot add to it. 

Moreover, it may well be questioned whether the additional productivity of the Sussex land, which Professor Huxley posits, is all due to previous labour bestowed upon the land. For if a savage were placed upon this land in its present state, he, having no knowledge of agriculture, might derive from it no more and probably less susten­ance than if it were still in a state of nature. The greater part of the additional productivity of the agriculturist’s labour on this land is due, not to labour previously applied to it, but to advances in the knowledge of present labourers, and to the social environment, which furnishes them the means of applying this knowledge. 

Nevertheless is it true that all the productivity of this land, due to present and previous labour exercised upon it, whether it is little or much, is rightfully private and exclusive property. And it follows from the hypothesis that all that productivity, which is not due to labour exercised upon it, i.e. to improvements, cannot rightfully be private and exclusive property. 

Suppose this land, in its present state, instead of being situated a few miles from London, were situated five hundred miles from any centre of population. Would its productivity, the wealth, which it yields to labour, be as great as it is in its present situation? Evidently not; its productivity would be less. Its favourable situation, therefore, forms part of its productivity. Labour exercised upon this land did not create this favourable situa­tion, cannot, therefore, give any right to private and exclusive property in the productivity hence arising. 

Suppose, again, land situated as favourably, and on which equal labour has been expended, but endowed with less natural fertility. Such land also would possess less productivity. Some part of the present productivity of Sussex land, therefore, may be due, not to previous labour, nor to situation, but to its greater natural fertility than other land which must be used. This part of its productivity, like that arising from more favourable situation, therefore, also cannot rightfully become private and exclusive property. 

Whichever way, therefore, the question is looked at, labour expended in improvements on land, while giving exclusive property in such improvements, cannot give private and exclusive property-rights in the land itself. 

The Method of Reform 

THE main propositions, previously established and vindi­cated in the last chapter, are :—

All men have equal rights to the use of land, and each of them is entitled to the exclusive possession of all the wealth, which his labour produces or his services procure, provided he infringes not the equal rights of all others. Disregard of the equal right to land necessarily involves violations of the unequal right to wealth. Social injustice in the production and distribution of wealth thus arises from the disregard of the equal rights of all men to the use of the earth. Hence social justice cannot be achieved till, through the recognition of the equal rights of all to the use of land, each of them is made free to produce as much wealth as his capacity and industry enable him; and till, through the abolition of all private monopolies and of the taxation of justly acquired wealth, each is secured in the exclusive possession of all the wealth which his labour produces or his services procure through free contract with its producers. 

And further: All men and women being members of a social body, the sole object for which a social body exists being to secure the greatest aggregate sum of happi­ness to its members; such happiness being unattainable except through the establishment and maintenance of justice—justice demanding the recognition of the equal rights of all to the use of land, and the individual of each to the produce of his labour; it is the paramount duty of every social body to frame and enforce regulations which will safeguard these rights for everyone of its members. 

That the land of civilised nations is now owned by some to the exclusion of others; that consequently the equal rights of the majority of the members of every State are violated, cannot affect this duty. Were men now for the first time confronted with the question how land shall be dealt with; were a body of men now to discover an uninhabited and fertile island; the rights of each of them would be no greater and no less than the rights of those who live in countries where all the land is held as private property. For violation of rights does not abolish or even lessen rights. All the difference, which can be claimed is, that the establishment of justice could inflict no hardship in the former cases; while in the latter case it might inflict hardship upon some of the persons who profit and have profited by existing injustice. On the other hand, however, it must not be forgotten that the continuance of private ownership of land and con­sequential injustice, inflicts hardship, and inevitably much greater hardship, not only once but perpetually, upon those far more numerous persons who are injured by it. All that can be claimed on behalf of those who profit by social injustice, therefore, is, that the injustice shall be removed in a manner, which, while inflicting no avoidable hardship upon them, shall not needlessly prolong or aggravate the hardship of the victims of social injustice. Hence the substitution of the equal rights of all for the unequal rights of some to the land, having as Its aim the greatest production and the just distribution of wealth, must be effected in a manner which will avoid all unnecessary hardship to both classes. 

Other conditions must be observed. A sudden intro­duction of great and far-reaching social changes, however just, not only inflicts the maximum of temporary hardship on the whole people; not only generates new evils more or less lasting, but places the change on insecure foundations. The hardships and evils unnecessarily provoked cause a revulsion of feeling, and may result in reaction, restoring conditions analogous to those which it was intended to remove. 

Moreover, it may well be questioned whether the masses of the people are as yet fit to live under conditions of absolute social justice. The industrial warfare between employers and employed would inevitably be aggravated by any sudden and radical alteration in the relative power of the combatants. The workers largely made independent of capitalistic employment, lacking the experience and moral development necessary for the co-operative conduct of industries, would misuse their newly acquired power, as power has been misused by the capitalistic classes. When, however, by slow increments of justice, general conditions are improved gradually, there will take place such a radical moral growth, as will ultimately enable men to live under conditions of absolute justice. For all these reasons the sudden transformation of unequal into equal rights to land must, if possible, be avoided. 

The essential condition for the most productive use of land is security of possession of the land, and of all improvements effected on the land. The absence of such security where, as in the United Kingdom, land is mainly used by tenants; or where, as in most other countries, the normal owner is heavily indebted to a mortgagee, is a main cause of the inferior and inefficient use of land. The contemplated reform, therefore, must be effected in a manner which will give to the users permanency of possession in the land and assurance of full compensation for improvements on their relinquishing such possession. 

With the same object in view, the most productive use of land, there must be avoided all interference with individual control over the use of land. No State Official must be allowed to dictate to the possessor of land in which manner and for what purposes the land must be used. On the other hand, the reform must be effected in such manner that the self-interest of every holder of land compels him to place it to the most profitable use. 

Leaving ethical considerations mainly to be dealt with in the succeeding chapters, the present one will be devoted to the comparison of the several, theoretically possible, methods of reform, with regard to their economic and political advantages and disadvantages. 

One such theoretically possible method is the purchase of the land by the State. Its necessary consequences would be: purchase of all improvements where the selling owner did not desire to lease the land from the State, and leasing the land, either in perpetuity, with regularly recurring adjustments of rent and sale of improvements, or for short periods at a fixed rental, including interest for improvements. 

As no government is possessed of the necessary wealth, the purchase would have to be made with interest-bearing bonds. The interest charge thus created would, however, enormously exceed the rent and interest, which the State, for many years, could receive for the land and improvements. For these reasons—

It has already been shown[13]that, in addition to natural rent, there arises under private ownership a spurious rent, the result of the non-use or partial use of land. This spurious rent not only adds to the capital value of the unused or partially used land, but also to the value of all the land fully used, and in addition confers a value on some land which is not required for present use. Apart from this great and fictitious increase in the value of land thus arising, there is engendered an additional and speculative value of some land. 

Wherever exists even a remote possibility of land increasing in value in the future, land bears a price in excess of the capitalisation of its present rental value. 

The anticipated future increase in rental value is discounted in advance. This additional and speculative value increases with every increase in the probability of the future advance of rental value. The action of this force, though not confined to this limit, may most clearly be discerned in the neighbourhood of growing towns and cities. Surrounding land used for grazing or agriculture, or not used, is bought and sold at prices which many times exceed its value as grazing or agricultural land. Though both sellers and purchasers know that all this land cannot be required for building purposes for perhaps a century to come, yet each of them buys and sells, on the possibility or probability of a particular piece of land being so required in the near future. 

These causes of artificial values, existing everywhere, are most active in quickly progressive countries. In the United States, Australia, South Africa, and other new countries, the areas of valuable land unused, or only partly used, are very large. Speculation in land is also generally active, and from both these causes the artificial value adhering to land is very great. 

As soon, however, as the Government would have purchased the land all this artificial value would disappear. 

The land not needed by the people would pay no rent; the rent paid for other land would be far less than the expectation on which its capital value rested. The rent would, therefore, fall far below the interest charge on the purchase value of the land. To the loss so incurred must be added a loss on the purchase of improvements. Improvements may be antiquated and much the worse for wear and tear and yet fully serve the purpose of the owner in inferior uses of land. Others may be serviceable for some purposes and unserviceable for others. When the land is taken from owners who refuse to continue possession on lease all the improvements on such land will have to be purchased at full value. New lessees, however, may, and generally will, prefer new improvements, and may also want to use the land for purposes for which existing improvements are of little or no value. In either case the State would receive little or nothing for improvements purchased at high value. This loss must be added to the loss on land values. 

The deficit thus arising would be enormous, might even equal one-half the interest payable to dispossessed landowners. There is only one way in which the revenue necessary to provide for it could be raised, viz. by taxation—either taxes on incomes or taxes on labour-products through customs and excise. Already, in most countries, the income-tax, yielding a comparatively small revenue, is nevertheless reducing the wealth-producing power of the people. While in some countries a small additional revenue may be derived from this source, its revenue-yielding limit has been reached in others. The principal part of the additional burden would everywhere fall on labour­products through customs and excise taxation. Even it taxes on imported goods were counterbalanced by equivalent taxes on locally-produced goods, so as to prevent the creation of more private monopolies, the revenue which the State would derive from this source would fall far short of the sums which the masses of the people would have to pay. For manufacturers, importers, and dealers are compelled to add the tax to the cost price of their goods, and, making the average profit on their cost, must make such profits on the tax as well. 

Even if it were possible to raise the requisite and huge amounts from this source, which may well be doubted, there would arise an aggravation of existing injustice—the State would appropriate more of the products of individual exertion. Moreover, such taxation falls mainly on the poorer classes of the people; these, instead of being relieved, would therefore be still further injured by the State purchase of the land. 

The classes so injured comprise not only the bulk of the landless men, but the great majority of landowners themselves, the owners of small areas of agricultural land and of cheap building sites in villages, towns, and cities. The additional taxation would generally take from them more than the interest on the bonds received by them could amount to. Their land, therefore, would not be purchased, it would be confiscated, and in addition they would have to provide part of the interest payable to the owners of larger areas and of more valuable land. 

The entire object of the reform, therefore, would be missed by this method even if it were practicable. Production would be hindered by additional taxation as much as it would be fostered by the establishment of equal rights to land, and the new taxation added to existing ones would immensely aggravate the existing violation of individual rights. Instead of unnecessary hardship being avoided, the utmost hardship would be inflicted upon the victims of existing injustice. Perpetuated under another name—interest instead of rent-injustice would be aggravated instead of being removed. . 

New evils also would arise. After the Government had acquired the land it would have to fix the rental of all land, and would have to select the persons to whom leases are to be granted for land relinquished by previous owners, as well as to determine the area leased to anyone, and in many cases its use. If perpetual leasing at variable rents were the system adopted, this interference would take place once; if terminable leases at fixed rents were adopted, it would have to take place at perpetually recurring intervals. Two systems are possible. Government officials may determine the area of each holding, and award each to the person offering the highest rent. In this case rack­renting would arise, unjustly diminishing the reward of labour and augmenting rent, though not perhaps to the existing level.

Or the officials, having determined the area of each holding, themselves fix the rent and award possession to applicants selected by themselves or by ballot. The ballot system, however, has been found liable to abuses, to which the term “dummying” has been applied in Australia. These abuses may, perhaps, be worse than those, which result from official selection. In either case the temptation to favour particular individuals by awarding them land at exceptionally low rentals, or giving them a preferential opportunity so to acquire it, would be irresistible. Jobbery and corruption in the one case, rack-renting in the other, therefore, are unavoidable and additional results of land nationalisation by purchase. 

Reflection will show that purchase of the rental value of land, exempting improvements, must lead to similar results as purchase of the land itself. Both these methods, therefore, fail to comply with the conditions laid down. 

The confiscation of the rent of land is another method, which might be considered. Apart from the question whether this method is practicable—whether it can be employed without provoking civil war-slight considera­tion shows that, in addition to the unavoidable suddenness of the change, it would inflict the utmost hardship on both landowners and landless men. 

Present owners of land, suddenly deprived of the rent which to many is the main source and to some the only source of income-unaccustomed as many of them are to any productive labour-would be exposed to hardship approaching injustice. Nor could the landless classes escape. A large proportion of the latter is employed in the production of goods and services, which are demanded by the wealthy classes alone. The sudden appropriation of rent and monopoly charges by the State would largely reduce the incomes of all wealthy persons, and would absorb the incomes of many. The sudden cessation of their demand for luxuries and services would destroy the opportunities of employment in this direction without immediately providing employment in other directions. To both these classes, therefore, the confiscation of rent would be provocative for a considerable time of widespread hard­ship and distress. For this reason, as well as on account of its inevitable suddenness and of the necessity of govern­mental interference in the use and disposal of land, the confiscation of rent also fails to offer any adequate solution of the question under consideration. 

There remains but Henry George’s Single Tax method, consisting of the gradual appropriation of the rent of land and of natural monopolies and the similarly gradual removal of all other taxation and charges for the use of equal natural and social opportunities. This method, proceeding slowly and gradually, would not disorganise industry nor inflict appreciable hardship on anyone. The great majority of landowners would benefit more by the removal of taxes and charges than they would forgo by the loss of the rent of their land. The owners of large areas or of exceptionally valuable land would lose more than they would gain, but at first the loss would be unimportant. Before it could reach important dimensions many of the existing owners would be dead, and the remaining ones would either have adapted themselves to the new condition by qualifying for productive occupations, or would find consolation in the wealth remaining to them. 

The hardship, if any, to the owners of land would thus be minimised, while the masses of the people would derive a great advantage from the first introduction of the system, an advantage which, growing with its extension, would culminate with its completion. For the imposition of even a small tax on land values, especially if its augmentation be apprehended, would lower rents, induce a more efficient use of land, increase the demand for labour, and therefore tend to increase wages. For these reasons: The owners having to pay the tax on the rental value of land, and not according to the income which the use of the land yields—having to pay the same amount whether the land is used and yields an income, or whether it is unused and yields no income—would either themselves use the land in the most advantageous way, or let or sell it to others who would so use it. There would thus arise a greater competition between landowners for tenants and buyers, and consequently a fall in the capital and rental value of land; there would arise a greater demand for labour to work upon land-whether urban, agricultural, or mining land—and consequently an increase in the reward of labour. Other forms of taxation being simultaneously reduced, the increased earnings of labour would be less infringed upon by the State, and monopolies based upon such taxation would gradually disappear. Higher money wages and lower prices of labour-products would thus combine to enhance the well-being of the masses of the people, and the consequent increase in their consumptive power would tend still further to increase production and the demand for labour. Every addition to the tax on land values, and every further reduction of other taxes, would strengthen these tendencies, until, with the completion of the system, there would have arisen an enormous consumption and production of wealth, an illimitable demand for labour, and a distribution of wealth which, denying reward without service rendered, would secure to everyone a reward equal to the value of the service rendered by him. 

The gradual appropriation of the rental value of land would thus secure equal rights to land and unequal but equitable rights to labour-products, without appreciable hardship to anyone, and so gradually as not to provoke reaction or to disturb industrial organisation. Yet the land would be as effectually nationalised as if it had been appropriated by the State. For, as previously shown,[14]the value of land is nothing else than the price some people are willing to pay for the power to levy tribute upon present and future users of land. As land-values fall and rise with the fall and rise of rent, land-values would dis­appear if rent disappeared. Likewise, if the whole rent of land goes to the State, private persons will not give wealth in exchange for land. Land would lose all market value, would no longer be bought and sold, and as society would receive all that benefit from land, which is not due to individual labour, the collective ownership of rent nationalises land as effectively as the collective ownership of the land itself. 

There would, however, be a total absence of the interference of State officials, unavoidable when the land itself is made collective property. Present owners can be left in possession, and would gradually transfer to users any land which they themselves could not use to fullest advantage, while unused land could be appropriated by anyone desirous of using it without let or hindrance. The rental value of land can be assessed, and the tax can be collected periodically by local bodies, from whose assessment appeal can be made to a revision court, either by the aggrieved party against over-assessment of his land or by anyone for under-assessment of others’ land. The rent, which the State receives would thus fall and rise, not through the caprice of officials, but through natural causes. Likewise, the area allotted to each and the use made by him of it would, when the tax is paid on rental value without rebate for inferior use, be determined by the capacity of each and by social necessities finding expression in price, in a manner most advantageous to society and without governmental interference. 

At the same time there would prevail the most absolute security of possession both of the land and of improvements made on the land. As long as any man paid the rent periodically assessed no one could dispossess him or his heir or assignees unless the land were required for public purposes. In such case, or whenever any holder of land wanted to dispose of it to anyone else, the value of improvements alone would be paid for. This security would lead to the fullest use of land, to the most extensive application of labour and capital; while land, having no rental value, land at the margin, could be used without payment of rent or tax of any kind till such time as increase of population and extension of public works had given it a value. 

The Single Tax method of securing equal rights to land, therefore, avoids the objections, which adhere to all other methods. There would be no avoidable hardship, no sudden and profound change in social relations, no interference by State officials with the allotment and use of land, and no power to fix rents arbitrarily or enforce rack-rents. The exaction of the rent charge would compel holders to make the most profitable use of all land, and at the same time there would arise the most absolute security of possession by the users of land. 

The monopoly-use of land for social purposes, as in the case of railways, tramways, canals, and in the supply of gas, electric light, and power, and of other commodities the supply of which depends upon special privileges in the use of land, lends itself to the same treatment. The value of such properties is seen easily in that of their share-capital and debentures. Deduction from this total value of the value of labour-products owned by the company reveals the value of its monopoly-rights. This value, therefore, could be taxed in the same manner as the value of the ownership of other land, and would gradually disappear under taxation. 

Nor would such taxation lead generally to an increase of the price charged by these monopolies for the services, which they render. For this price is generally not determined by competition, but by the consideration of greatest total profit. Where this is the case, an increase of price, far from recouping the monopoly owner for taxation, would, by reducing consumption, augment the reduction of the total profits. Taxation, therefore, would secure to the whole people the value of the monopoly without necessitating public management of the industry. 

There are, however, other considerations, which may be urged for a different ultimate treatment of these monopolies. Railways, tramways, and canals are as much highways as ordinary roads and streets. The considerations, which have led to the public ownership of roads and streets apply with even greater force to these modern routes of communication, and the reasons which have caused the almost universal abolition of tolls on roads and streets equally apply to them. Cheapness of transport stimulates production and aids in the development of national resources. Private control of public highways leads to inequality of treatment and corrupt practices. 

It is, therefore, in the highest degree desirable that these modern highways also shall be owned by society, and, like all others, shall be open to public use without charge. But there is as little necessity for the State conduct of the transportation business over railroads, tramroads, and canals, as there is for the State conduct of this business over ordinary streets and roads. For the ownership of locomotives and other motors, of cars and boats, is not a monopoly. The monopoly resides in the ownership of the road. The State, therefore, may acquire the road, and regulating the traffic so as to ensure safety and equality of treatment to the users of the road, may throw open the business of transportation to free competition. Just as no charge is made to recoup the State for the expense of making and maintaining ordinary roads, no charge need be made for the use of these roads. The State would he repaid, and repaid abundantly, by the consequent increase in production and the value of land. And just as competition between carriers secures to the public the advantages, which have arisen from the abolition of road-tolls, so would competition between carriers over railways, tramways, and canals secure to all the advantages arising from their free use. For such carriers owning locomotives, cars, motors, or boats would compete with each other over every road and canal, and such competition would result in the lowest rates for the carriage of goods and passengers, in the readiest adoption of new inventions and improvements and in immense advantages to all industries. 

The supply of gas, water, electric light and power, and of pneumatic and hydraulic power, however, is not open to the same treatment. Here the choice lies between absorption of the monopoly value by taxation or collective conduct of the industry. The objections to the municipal ownership and conduct of such industries, while not without weight, are nevertheless much less serious than those urged against the socialisation of unprivileged industries. For not only is the resulting bureaucracy far less numerous and powerful, not only would there remain freedom of employment, but the loss of efficiency also would be less serious. For these privileged industries, economically and ethically distinguished from unprivileged industries, are also industrially distinguished. Dealing with the supply of goods and services not subject to variations in quality, design, colour, and shape, the demand for which can be estimated with facility, these industries can be managed by permanent officials with less loss of efficiency than other industries. Moreover, as private monopolies, they are now generally managed with less efficiency than competitive industries, and the further loss of efficiency arising from municipal management would, therefore, be minimised. Nevertheless, such loss might arise, and to it must be added a tendency towards corrupting municipal government as well as the possible domination of the municipality by its servants. On the whole, therefore, it seems preferable to treat these monopolies also by the Single Tax method, i.e. appropriating the monopoly-value adhering to them by a gradually extending system of taxing the monopoly-value and leaving the conduct of the industry in the hands of private proprietors and their employees. 

The Ethics of Compensation 

To many minds convinced of the injustice of private ownership of land and monopolies, their abolition without compensation seems nevertheless unjust and arbitrary. As a rule, however, the demand for compensation is urged by the defenders of private ownership of land, by those who deny that it involves any injustice. Their demand for compensation is, however, illogical. For if the private ownership of land and legal monopolies rests on the same ethical basis as the private ownership of labour-products, the compulsory appropriation of land or of the rent of land, and the abolition of private monopolies, would constitute a glaring act of injustice, even if the fullest compensation were paid. If private property in these things involves no injustice, if it infringes no rights, its compulsory abolition would be an act of violence as purposeless as it is arbitrary, compensation or no compensation. The question of compensation, therefore, cannot arise unless it is admitted that justice demands the establishment of equal rights to land and to inevitable monopolies, and the abolition of all unnecessary monopolies. 

The upholders of existing conditions who demand compensation are illogical in other respects. They deny the existence of equal rights to land on two grounds. 

One exemplified by Lord Bramwell is as follows:[15]

“Be it that there are natural rights, that is, in a state of nature, where there is nothing artificial. But men have formed themselves into a social state; all is artificial and nothing merely natural. In such a state no rights ought to exist but what are for the general good—all that are should. And what we have to consider is—whether private or separate property in land is good for the community.”

This reasoning obviously excludes all ethical considerations. It is not a question whether private property in land is unjust, nor whether its abolition with or without compensation is unjust, but whether either is good for the community. What is good for the community must be decided by some one or many. Who is he or who are they? It cannot be denied that when ethical guidance is abandoned, this question cannot be decided authoritatively except by the governing body, be it an autocrat, an oligarchy, or a majority of the whole people. Whenever, therefore, this governing authority decides that the abolition of private property in land, without compensation, is “good for the community,” the governing body “should,” according to Lord Bramwell, so abolish it. Seeing that natural rights do not exist within a society, that “no rights ought to exist but what are for the common good,” the owners of land can have no right to compensation when compensation is found not to be for the common good. 

The other reasoning is exemplified in the following passage: [16]— 

“Nothing also in morals is more plain than that to abolish without compensation that private ownership which has existed for countless generations, and on the faith of which tens of thousands of men in all ages and lands, and with the sanctions and under the guarantees of the laws of all nations, have invested the fruits of their industry and their thrift, would be an act of simple, gross, naked, gigantic robbery.” 

This reasoning bases the claim for compensation upon the hoary antiquity, the governmental sanction, and the purchase of land with the fruits of individual industry. 

Without inquiring here whether private and full ownership of land “has existed for countless generations in all ages and lands,”[17]it will be admitted that if the facts on which Mr. Lecky relies justify his conclusion with regard to property in land, they compel the same conclusion with regard to property in all other things. Any property rights, which can or could show the combination of great antiquity, general sanction, and frequent sale and purchase, can or could not be abolished without compensation. The abolition of protective duties and the abolition of rotten boroughs in Great Britain, and, above all, the abolition of slavery without compensation must then be held to have been “acts of simple, gross, naked, and gigantic robbery.” 

For while property in all these things had been recognised for ages, had received general sanction, and had been subject to sale and purchase, this is especially true of slavery. For slavery, far more truly than private ownership of land, may be described as having “existed for countless generations in all ages and lands … under the sanction and guarantees of the laws of all nations,” and “tens of thousands of men have invested the fruits of their industry and thrift” in slaves. Yet not only was protection and the system of rotten boroughs in England abolished without compensation, but slavery, with one exception, was likewise so abolished. 

The one exception is the compensation given by the British Parliament to the West Indian slaveowners. Even the landlord Parliament of that time, however, did not stretch its sympathy with the landlords of the West Indian islands so far as to make the abolition of slavery dependent upon the slaves themselves compensating their owners. It compelled the white slaves of the United Kingdom to furnish the larger part of the compensation which gave freedom to the black slaves of the West Indies. But can it be argued that if the people of Great Britain had refused to make this sacrifice, British soldiers and police would have been morally bound to compel the West Indian slaves to work for their masters to all eternity? Suppose the West Indies to have been an independent State. Would the slaves have lost all right to freedom unless they themselves, or some foreign people, paid their full value to the owners? 

Or suppose a slave escapes from a country in which slavery still has legal existence, and finds refuge on board a British vessel. Is the slave a thief who has stolen his value from his owner, and is the British captain an accessory to the theft, unless they pay compensation? If it be admitted that the escape of one slave does not constitute a theft, does a case of theft or robbery arise when more than one, or all slaves, escape from bondage? Must they be considered to be morally still the property of their previous owners till compensation has been paid? If not, if they are justified in escaping from their bondage without compensation in an illegal way, are they not doubly justified in doing it in a legal way? May they not acquire the governing power of the country, and pass a law abolishing their own slavery, without thereby incurring the obligation to pay compensation? 

These considerations clearly establish the conclusion that no moral claim to compensation can arise from the abolition of slavery. Yet property in slaves was sanctioned by all the conditions, which Mr. Lecky adduces as sanctioning private property in land. If these conditions do not impose the duty of compensation in the one case, they obviously cannot do so in the other case. 

It is, however, alleged that the ethical distinction between property in slaves and property in land is so great that considerations applying to the one property cannot be applied to the other property. In previous chapters[18]it has been shown that this contention is erroneous, that land-owning is essentially of the same ethical character as slave-owning. But this question does not arise here. Mr. Lecky does not draw any ethical distinction between property and property. He wisely bases the sanctity of property in land and the demand for compensation, not on ethical considerations, but on the conjunction of three alleged facts—long persistence, governmental sanction, and investment. If these by themselves are insufficient to establish a claim for compensation in all cases, the abolition of property in slaves included, they are equally insufficient to establish this claim on the abolition of any particular form of property, property in land included. 

So far the claims for compensation on the part of those have been considered who deny that it is the duty of society to enforce the equal right of all its members to land. There remains to be considered the claim of those who are convinced that all men have equal rights to land, and that the denial of this right deprives the majority, or even large numbers of men, of part of the product of their labour. Their demand for compensation arises mainly from two conditions. One is custom; the existence of unjust laws, obscuring primary morality, leads to the formation of secondary views of morality. To break the law, or to alter an unjust law, when such alter­ation deprives anyone of unjust advantages, is regarded as more immoral than the maintenance of such laws. … The moral claim of the victims of unjust laws to a restoration of their rights is obscured by the false view that there has arisen a moral claim on the part of the beneficiaries to enjoy for all time the advantages which the unjust law has hitherto secured to them. 

The second cause for this demand is a special one. Land Nationalisation, the acquisition of the land itself by the State, was, till Henry George published Progress and Poverty, generally regarded as the only measure by which the equal rights of all to land could be secured. This plan can be carried out either by the acquisition of one piece of land after another, or by the State acquiring all the land by a sudden act. If the former method be adopted, some landowners would continue in the full enjoyment of rent, while others would be deprived of it. The injustice of this procedure to the latter, without compensation, cannot be denied. Nor can it be denied that the sudden confiscation of all land by the State, while not unjust, would inflict hardship so great as to approach injustice. Under such circumstances the demand for compensation, even of those who recognise existing injustice, was natural and inevitable. 

Under Henry George’s Single Tax system, however, both these causes of partial injustice are avoided: all landowners are treated equally, and the transition from unequal to equal rights in land is so gradual, and accompanied by such other benefits, that no hardship can arise. The reasons, which justify the demand for compensation, when the clumsy method of Land Nationalisation is considered, do not, therefore, apply to the Single Tax system of gradual reform. 

If it is admitted that private ownership of land is a continued injustice; that it leads to the perpetual repetition of other acts of injustice; that the proposed method of reform treats all landowners equally and inflicts no unnecessary hardship, on what moral grounds can com­pensation be claimed? Apart from its other consequences, the essence of private ownership of land is that it gives to landowners the legal right to take wealth from all others without rendering any service. To claim that this legalised system of theft ought not to be abolished without compensation to the beneficiaries, is equivalent to the declaration that it is just and ought not to be abolished at all. For if the rent of land does belong to the community, if its appropriation by landowners is an act of usurpation, how can it be held that the community must purchase it? The claim for compensation, therefore, is a direct denial of the right of all to the rent of land and to equal rights in land. 

Moreover, if compensation is paid, the injustice continues which enables a few to appropriate wealth belonging to the many. For the interest on bonds given in compensation, would enable the holders to extract even more wealth from the community than they now do as rent, and equally without rendering any service in return. This fact, as well as the further result, that only the wealthier landowners can benefit by compensation, while the great majority of landowners would be injured by it, has already been dealt with in the preceding chapter. Compensation, therefore, is an absolute denial of justice—would perpetuate and aggravate existing injustice under another name. 

Plausible reasons are advanced for compensation. One is, that a majority of the people having hitherto sanctioned private ownership of land, it must be held that all have sanctioned it. This contention, however, is self-destructive, even apart from the consideration that the right of unborn generations, as well as of those now living, is involved. For if the sanction of a majority may be construed to be a sanction by all in one case, it must be so construed in all cases. Therefore, if a majority of the people sanctions a law appropriating the value of all land without compensation, it must be construed to be sanctioned by all, landowners included. Hence the claim for compensation on account of constructive general sanction, is met by the equally valid claim for no compensation based on constructive general sanction. 

Another claim is that, as much land has been purchased with labour-products, the abolition of private ownership without compensation would be equivalent to the confiscation of these labour-products. This claim overlooks the obvious fact that purchase alone can give no moral right to the thing purchased. In order to establish such right in the purchaser, the seller must have a moral right to sell, must be the rightful owner. Purchase of a slave can give no moral right of ownership, because the seller had no moral right of ownership in the slave. Can it be alleged that any of the past sellers of land were the rightful owners of the land? If they were not—a conception necessarily involved in that of the injustice of private ownership—the present holders also cannot be rightful owners. Nor does the sanction by the State of the sale and purchase of land, nay, not even sale by the State, alter this position. Neither the State nor any individual was morally the owner of the land; the title of every owner of land is morally vitiated by the fact that neither State nor individual holds or can hold a saleable interest in land. The land belongs to no one; the right to use it belongs equally to all men, not merely to those now living, but to all the generations of men who ever shall live on it. The notion that a body of men, mere passing forms of matter, inhabiting this earth but for a brief period of time, may for ever dispose of the earth, is surely one of the strangest examples of that secondary morality previously alluded to. 

Moreover, it must not be forgotten that what present owners acquired when they purchased the land was not so much the land itself as the legal right to appropriate rent, i.e. to levy tribute on the present generation of their fellow-men, and to transmit to others the power to levy tribute on future generations. No government, even with the consent of all the present members of the State, can possess the moral right to sell this power; no purchaser can morally acquire it, and no compensation can be claimed on the score of morality from those who refuse to submit any longer to this immoral exaction. If they refuse to pay it they con­fiscate no labour-products—they simply refuse to allow any further confiscation of their own labour-products. 

The owners of land lose nothing positive when the rent of land is appropriated by the State. The wealth they gave for that rent is gone; they exchanged it for the power to levy tribute. No wealth taken by them in rent or otherwise is demanded of them; they simply lose the power of levying further tribute. Granted that when they bought the land they expected that soldiers and police would forever enforce this wrong. They have miscalculated, and cannot ask others to bear the resulting loss. If they could claim compensation on the ground of their disappointed expectation, all other persons who incur losses because the State acts contrary to their expectation would be equally entitled to compensation. On the passing of a Usury Bill making illegal a rate of interest previously not illegal, all those who had purchased the goodwill of a money­lending business, or who had spent years in learning its manifold intricacies and chicanery, would be entitled to compensation for the disappointed expectations that their practices would not be interfered with by law. If a new Company Act be passed endangering the safety of promoters who indulge in practices not previously forbidden by law—promoters who have invested the result of their industry and thrift in showy office furniture and in acquiring a widespread connection among touts and financial journalists—they would be morally entitled to compensation for the disappointment of their expectation of the continuance of a defective law. 

Still stronger would be the position of other claimants. If Parliament passes an Electric Lighting Act, it necessarily injures some gas company or dealers in other lighting substances and appliances who, when they entered upon their business, did not and could not foresee the use of electric light. Similarly, when Parliament passes a Railway Act, it necessarily disappoints the expectation of numerous carters, hotel-keepers, tradesmen, and others, and frequently reduces the value of property. In these and all like cases compensation would be due. 

Other claims are stronger still. Why should a protected manufacturer be robbed of the power, which Legislatures have granted him of charging higher prices to his fellow­citizens than he can charge to others? Is not compensation due to him also if the State deprives him of this valuable property or reduces its value? Or if, as has been done in Ireland, laws are passed under which tenants are given security of possession in the improvements which they place on the land, which reduce rack-rents and abolish indebted­ness incurred by tenants to landlords for non-payment of past rack-rents; or if by law railway rates are made less extortionate, are not the landlords and railway companies entitled to compensation for consequent loss of revenue and reduction in the value of their property? 

Or consider this case: Contributions from the general revenue to local rates transfer to the whole community expenditure for purposes, which add to and maintain the value of the land in localities so favoured. The rental value, as well as the capital value of land, and of nothing else, is increased by imposing upon the general taxpayer expenditure which otherwise must be borne by the owners of land, and from which they alone derive pecuniary benefits. Suppose the Legislature, recognising the immorality of this action, were to refuse to enforce in the future such confiscation of the rightful property of all for the exclusive benefit of some landowners. Would the Legislature act immorally if it discontinued paying aid to local rates out of the general revenue without compensating landlords for the resulting loss to them? Could the fact that landlords generally expected the continuation of the present system, and that some purchased land at the higher value resulting from it in the expectation of its continuance, create the moral obligation to pay compensation? If these questions are answered in the negative, as they will be answered by most, and in part have been answered by the British and other Legislatures, it is admitted that the disappointment of expectations cannot entitle to compensation. If they are answered in the affirmative, all and every reform of injustice is declared to be immoral. For whenever a thoughtless or corrupt Legislature had granted a monopoly or conferred an unjust advantage upon some at the expense of others, its removal would be possible only on condition that the beneficiaries should retain their full power of exaction in another form through compensation. Not only would all reform be made impossible by the acceptance of the doctrine that the beneficiaries of unjust legal privileges cannot be deprived of such privileges without compensation, but the tendency to corruption, which inevitably arises when Legislatures grant monopolies, would be increased manifold, and all monopolies would largely rise in value. 

Another argument advanced is that the State appropriation of the rent of land, however gradually it might be effected, would destroy the sanctity of property generally, and would, therefore, inevitably lead to Socialism. This argument obviously disregards any distinction between that which morally is private property and that which is not, as well as the results, which have arisen from the disregard of this distinction. For it is precisely the confusion of unrightful property with rightful property, which has given rise to and maintains Socialism. Those who, failing to observe this distinction, nevertheless see that property rights are disregarded, that the labourer is daily despoiled of his property, naturally revolt against the, in these circumstances, hypocritical claim of the sanctity of property. They condemn all property rights because they fail to see that it is the maintenance of property rights in monopolies, which destroys the sanctity of property in labour-products. Compensation perpetuating the viola­tion of just property rights would also perpetuate the revolt against all property rights. The reform here pleaded for cannot be fully or even largely realised till a majority of the people have become seized of this dis­tinction. When they have become aware of it, the sanctity of rightful property—of property in labour-products—will have gained the secure and lasting foundation which it now lacks. The appropriation of the rent of land and other monopolies without compensation, therefore, alone can secure full recognition for the sanctity of property­compensation would tend to still further weaken that recognition. 

The arguments on which the demand for compensation is based are untenable. But it is not a question of argument; it is one of sentiment. Men hesitate before adopting a truth fully; they desire compromise with error. Could not existing injustice be removed without depriving its beneficiaries of the advantage which they derive from it? This, unconsciously perhaps, is the desire of those who, recognising existing injustice and desiring its abolition, nevertheless claim that compensation must be paid to those who benefit from it. This desire cannot be fulfilled. Justice in the distribution of wealth cannot be achieved without reducing the amount of wealth, which goes to those who receive more than their just share. Reward cannot be proportioned to service as long as some receive rewards for which no service has been rendered. As fire and water cannot mingle, so it is impossible to combine the removal of injustice with compensation to those who benefit by injustice. Those who advocate the one thereby oppose the other. 

The Sufficiency of the Reform 

THOUGH man can never foresee all the consequences of even minor interferences with social relations, though for this reason alone considerations of expediency offer no reliable guidance for social conduct, yet it is not impossible to foresee the wider results of any measure based on con­siderations of justice. For, apart from the certainty that measures founded on justice and recognised as such by the community must work beneficially, it is possible to trace social symptoms to their causes, to establish a causal relation between unjust laws and resulting evils. Wherever this has been done successfully, it may be positively asserted that the removal of the cause must, sooner or later, lead to the disappearance of the resulting evils. It, therefore, is possible to present in broad outlines a picture of the changes in social relations, which the gradual adoption of the Single Tax system must produce. 

Speculation in land, increasing its price, and, by holding land out of use or full use, increasing the rent of all land, becomes purposeless and injurious to the speculators when the annual value of land must be paid in taxation whether the land yields an income or not.[19]Hence would arise a fall in rent, increasing facilities for production and increase in the demand for labour. To the direct benefit of lower rents would thus be added the indirect benefits of a greater demand for labour and higher wages. 

This reduction in rent will be augmented by the removal of all rates and taxes on improvements. Buildings will not be erected unless there is an expectation that they will return interest on the outlay in addition to all recurring expenses. Hence any taxation of buildings restricts the building of houses till the resulting scarcity forces up house-rent to a level, which will yield interest and tax. When such taxation is removed, buildings will be erected as soon as it is expected that rent will cover interest alone. Hence a greater abundance of houses and a corresponding fall in house-rent. 

The purchasing power of wages, increased by this fall in rent, will be still further augmented by a fall in prices, resulting from the abolition of customs and excise duties, stamp duties, and other imposts, and from the disappear­ance of the monopolies to which such duties give rise. 

More important than these changes are those, which must arise in the production of wealth. The absolute necessity, arising from the appropriation of rent by the community, of putting land to the highest use for which it is fitted, enforces an enormous and constant demand for labour. At the same time labourers can obtain land without being compelled to part with any savings in its purchase. Hence, in addition to an enormous demand for labour, will arise a real independence of labour. So many labourers will be able to employ themselves, and in the absence of monopoly the anxiety of capitalists to employ labour will be so great, that wages must rise till they equal the value of the product of labour.[20]

This point reached, there can never be witnessed such a spectacle as, unfortunately, is only too familiar now—men, willing and able to work, unable to find an opportunity to earn their bread. For when there are no monopolies in which wealth can be invested, no wealth can be saved except in forms which directly aid production and which are consumed in production. All saving then leads to increased production, increased production to a greater demand for and reward of labour, and as the workers receive the full product of their labour, consumption can and will keep pace with production.[21]There will then not necessarily be more wealth than now, at any given time, but there will be an infinitely greater production and consumption of wealth. General overproduction, involuntary idleness, and commercial crises will have disappeared from social life.  

Large fortunes also will disappear as undeserved poverty disappears. Whoever examines such fortunes—whether they are those of territorial magnates, as the Dukes of Westminster and Bedford, the Earl of Durham, the Marquis of Bute, or the Astor family; or whether they are those of commercial and industrial magnates, as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Goulds, Vanderbilts, and others—can see at once that they mainly consist, not of real wealth, but of the value of monopoly rights. The disappearance of private monopoly rights would, therefore, cause the disappearance of the bulk of these large fortunes. Some men might still earn large and even enormous incomes by rendering corresponding services, but such incomes would no longer coalesce into large and permanent fortunes. For the permanency of all large fortunes depends upon the possession of monopoly rights. If they are invested, as under the Single Tax system they would have to be invested, in competitive industries, they are ephemeral. The power of any man to superintend the employment of capital in competitive industries is limited. If the capital so invested exceeds a certain limit, the supervision must be inefficient, losses must arise, and the labour and anxiety are excessive. Hence, no one will then desire to own such large fortunes; and even if anyone should desire to do so, he would break down under the strain of preserving it, while’ constant losses would diminish its bulk. The ambition of men earning large incomes would, therefore, be directed into other channels than the accumulation of excessive fortunes. It would probably take the direction of donations for public purposes during the lifetime of the donors, to an extent, which cannot now be realised. 

The gradual increase in the reward of all labour and diminution of large fortunes would tend to remove class distinctions. When no one can live sumptuously without labour; when no one can ape the manners and customs of those who live sumptuously without rendering service, labour, which is still regarded as servile in spite of the abolition of chattel slavery, will be no longer so regarded. Society being thus levelled up and levelled down, the vices, which arise from excessive riches and extreme poverty, will alike disappear. Free education throughout all grades of knowledge will still further tend to the removal of class distinctions and to a greater coherence of society. The working classes, able to save capital out of their wages, and raised to a high level of knowledge, reasoning power, and morality, will no longer be compelled to work for wages. Forming themselves into joint-stock companies, they themselves, in conjunction with other workers who possess organising and managing ability, will be the owners of the factories, farms, and mines in which they work. Wage-industry will thus be superseded, gradually and largely, by co-operative industry. Capitalists, as a separate class, may not disappear entirely, but will be largely reduced in number. Such organisers only as, on account of their exceptional ability, can pay higher wages than can be earned in competing co-operative establishments, can attach a sufficient number of good workers to their service for any length of time. Nor will the wage-worker entirely disappear. Young men who have not yet saved enough to acquire a share in a co-operative concern, the less able and steady workers, as well as some who have lost their savings, will always form a residue of wage-workers. But their number also will be enormously reduced. Capitalist and labourer will generally be united in the same person, removing the last tincture of the stigma attaching to hand­labour, and producing a democratic society of unpre­cedented homogeneity and cohesion.[22]

Long before this stage has been reached, all such restrictive legislation as that against excessive hours of labour and against unhealthy and overcrowded work­rooms, as well as laws directed to ensure the safety of workers and to fix a minimum of wages, will have become objectless. For the workers, being mostly free to work for a capitalist, or to employ themselves, stronger in competition than capitalists when capital cannot be in­vested in monopolies, will not enter employments which do not offer favourable conditions in all these respects. Capitalists will either have to comply with the standards fixed by the workers, or pay higher wages to compensate for conditions below this standard, or will be unable to obtain workers. At the same time, there would disappear child-labour and the labour of married women in factories, while such employment for unmarried women would either be more and more shunned, or would be carried on under greatly improved conditions. Fathers and husbands in receipt of ample wages would as little think of sending their wives and children into factories as do the members of the middle class now; and parents would not allow their grown-up daughters to work there, except for short hours and in the absence of adequate household labour. 

While the gradual adoption of the Single Tax system would thus profoundly change the industrial life of the nation, it would likewise improve the family life. Slums, as well as the present style of workmen’s houses, would disappear, and give way to decent houses and cottages, with ample room for all the amenities and conveniences of life. For while a private owner, aiming at the highest rent from his plot of land, is compelled to pack it with houses, it is a matter of indifference to the State whether a given rent is derived from 10 or from 50 square miles. Under the Single Tax system, cottages would be built on land surrounding the cities, with ample grounds, and factories would follow. The resulting withdrawal of population from crowded cities would empty present slums and streets, and would lower the rental-value of the land there sufficiently to allow of cottages being built there also on larger areas, the sole condition which would enable them to compete with suburban garden-homes. The first condition of a healthy family life, good homes offering privacy to all members of the family, would thus be secured for the whole people. 

The high price of labour would make domestic service a rare condition, and would, combined with the generally high education and culture, lend it a new character. For machinery would then largely take the place of domestic hand-labour, and many domestic operations, notably cooking and laundry work, would be mainly carried on as an industrial occupation, meals being either partaken of in restaurants or sent to the houses of consumers from such establishments. The slavery of married women of the lower, middle, and labouring class would thus be abrogated, to the great advantage of themselves and their families. 

The depopulation of the country districts also would cease. For the land is used to best advantage when it is used in small areas by independent labourers. The taxation of rent would force landowners to allow it so to be used, and the country would then again afford ample opportunities for a healthy, profitable, and pleasurable life.[23]

Not only would the exodus of the country population to the cities be stopped, but a great return flow from towns and cities would take place. Town life and country life would thus lose much of their distinctive character. Townspeople living in garden-homes, and country-people living far more closely together than at present, would gain physically, mentally, and morally by this change. 

Socialists not infrequently have denied the efficacy of the Single Tax system as a cure for social injustice. While ardent claimants for Land Nationalisation, they deny that any plan of Land Nationalisation will suffice to procure social justice. An examination of the reasons on which this denial is based will, however, show its erroneous character. Mr. H. M. Hyndman, President of the Social Democratic Federation of Great Britain, is one of these objectors. He states :—

“If agricultural rents and ground rents were taken by the State to-morrow, the main difficulties of our great social problem would be almost as far from solution as ever. It needs but few figures to make this clear. Out of the total agricultural production of Great Britain, which is estimated to be worth, one year with another, £ 300,000,000, the landlords take, at the outside, little more than one-fifth, or £ 65,000,000 as rent. But as the late Mr. Toynbee pointed out, of this £ 65,000,000 not more than £ 30,000,000 would represent the’ unearned increment’ owned by individual landlords. Say the ground rents and royalties amount to another £ 60,000,000, only one-half of this would be unearned increment either, and it is still the fact that by mere confiscation of competition rent the State would not get more than £ 60,000,000 a year, the rest being, in one way or another, profit on in­vested capital, which, on this basis, it is not proposed to touch…. Now, granting that this is a vast sum, which would pay at least two-thirds of our present imperial revenue, now levied by direct and indirect taxation-and this is the proposal of these champions of the enforced confiscation of competition rents-what class would be benefited thereby? … Unquestionably the capitalists, who will be relieved of taxation to a large amount them­selves, and who, on the taxation of the workers being lessened, would reduce wages on the average by the amount of such remittance.” [24]

The reasons, and the only reasons, which Mr. Hyndman thus adduces for his allegation that the adoption of the Single Tax system would leave “the main difficulties of our great social problem almost as far from solution as ever,” are: (1) That the amount of rental-values is small; (2) that the capitalist will be relieved of taxation; (3) that wages will fall pari passuwith the removal of taxation from the earnings of the working population. 

The validity of the first reason turns entirely upon a question of fact. Against Mr. Hyndman’s guess of £ 60,000,000 as the annual value of land in the United Kingdom may be placed the reports of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, as revealing the actual land-values on which taxes are paid. The report of 1897 shows taxes to have been paid in 1896 on annual land-values amounting to £ 202,221,944, after all improvements have been deducted, a sum more than three times as large as Mr. Hyndman’s estimate.[25]Nor is it astonishing to find Mr. Hyndman’s guess so wide of the mark, when he regards royalties and ground rents as composed of improvement values to half their amount. A further peculiarity, which Mr. Hyndman shares with other critics, is, to disregard the manifest consequential changes, which such a profound modification of existing social conditions as the appropriation of rent by the State must entail. 

It is advisable to meet here the allegation, frequently made, and on no better evidence than that adduced by Mr. Hyndman, that annual land-values are lower generally than the revenue, which governments require from taxation. The opposite is true: in all civilised countries the annual value of land largely exceeds the revenues raised by taxation. In the United Kingdom the imperial and local revenues raised by taxes, duties, rates, and tolls, amounted in 1896 to £ 138,852,859[26]as against an annual land-value of £ 202,221,944, showing an excess for the latter of over £ 63,000,000. Likewise in the United States the total national, State, and municipal revenues raised by taxation in 1890 amounted to $ 828,541,000, while the annual value of land, as far as it can be ascertained, was $ 1,591,793,000, leaving an annual surplus of $ 763,252,000[27]The colony of Victoria, when at its lowest ebb in 1893, shows an annual land-value of £ 6,514,832, while the State and local revenues raised by taxation, with the deficit of the year added, amounted to £ 4,045,767, showing an excess of land-values of £ 2,469,065[28]These instances, comprising countries differing widely in their state of development, show that, gener­ally, the rental-value of land exceeds that part of the common expenditure which is met from taxation, and will be sufficient to meet this expenditure even when spurious rent has disappeared, and apart from the consideration that the necessary expenditure of governments will be largely reduced under the Single Tax system. 

Mr. Hyndman’s second objection, that capitalists would be relieved from taxation as capitalists, is true, but probably to a smaller extent than he supposes. In the United Kingdom the amount which capital contributed to the imperial and local revenues in 1896 was, as far as can be ascertained, £ 35,752,729, while the contribution of the working population was £ 73,013,217.[29]

The fact that capital will be freed from taxation is not, however, a valid objection; on the contrary, it seems to be one of the merits of the Single Tax system. Mr. Hyndman has overlooked that the great capitalists are invariably owners of monopolies, and would pay far more in taxes on monopoly than they now pay in taxes on capital. Moreover, the question surely arises, Does the taxation of capital benefit the working population? Even if it were admitted that under existing conditions it does not harm them—which it must do if it in any way lessens the employment of capital—it surely cannot in any way increase their wellbeing, as the taxation of monopoly does. Hence, even if present conditions alone are contemplated, the escape of capital, i.e. labour-products from taxation cannot be urged as a valid reason against the utility of the Single Tax system. When, however, it is recollected that under the altered conditions, which the application of this system will create, capital will be owned largely, if not wholly, by the workers themselves, the futility of this objection becomes still more apparent. 

Mr. Hyndman’s third reason, that the removal of taxes, which fall on the earnings of labour is invariably accompanied by a corresponding fall in their wages, is again largely a question of fact. Between, 1825 and 1861 an enormous load of taxation was removed off the shoulders of the workers of Great Britain. Did their wages fall during this period, or are they lower now than they were in I825? Did the abolition of the Corn Laws, as one example, lead to a reduction in British wages? On the contrary, there is not a statistician or economist of any standing who does not paint in glowing colours the improvement in the condition of the working population since this date, an improvement arising alike from an increase in money wages and from an increase in the purchasing power of every unit of such wages. Even socialist economists admit these facts.[30]It is, therefore, manifest that Mr. Hyndman’s third and last objection is as erroneous as the others. 

It is not denied that there are circumstances in which a reduction of taxes, which fall on wages would reduce money wages. When production is stationary, wages tend to fall to the subsistence level, because rent and monopoly charges gradually encroach upon and absorb all the excess produce. A reduction of taxes on labour would in such conditions merely lead to an increase of rent. Advancing production, however, necessarily increasing the demand for labour, counteracts this tendency even under existing conditions, and preserves the advantage more or less to labour. The Single Tax system, however, would absolutely destroy the tendency of wages to fall to the subsistence level, which Mr. Hyndman, in common with socialists generally, exaggerates into an invariable fact. For as rent becomes a common possession, any reduction in individual wages would be compensated for by an increase in the common possession; and as rent rises, this common fund, assuming more and more importance, would tend to modify differences of condition arising from differences in individual ability. And further, as labourers are mostly able to employ themselves when rent is common property, labour is more powerful in bargaining for wages than capitalists, and wages would therefore always be at the highest possible level, i.e. equal to the value of each labourer’s product.[31]

Mr. J. A. Hobson attacks the efficiency of the Single Tax system from other standpoints.[32]

“The most casual reflection upon the recent course of English industrial history would seem to make it evident that other classes have partaken, and more fully than the landowners, in the immense growth of industrial wealth during this century. … Those who regard the nationalisation of the land of England as a cure for all the ills that states are heir to, ignore the leading feature of our modern commercial policy, its internationalism. Grant their major premises that common ownership and control of land will procure equality of economic opportunities for all citizens and cut away the natural supports of all industrial monopolies, can such a consummation be attained by us by nationalising the land of England? Is not the land of America, China, Egypt, Russia, and all other countries, which by trade intercourse supply us with food and materials of manufacture, as integral a part of England for economic purposes as the land of Kent and Devon? No ultimate solution of the land question or any other social problem is even theoretically possible upon a strictly national basis. Neither the policy which posits ‘land’ as the residual claimant in distribution, nor the policy which assumes that political limits are coterminous with economic limits, can gain any wide and permanent acceptance among thoughtful people.” 

The first of these arguments, viz. that other classes, have partaken even more than landowners of the immense growth of wealth, even if its truth were admitted, would furnish no valid objection to the Single Tax system. For the theory on which this system is based does not postulate that the acquisition of wealth by any individual or class other than landowners is impossible under the existing system; nor does it assert that the acquisition of wealth by any individual or class is socially injurious. What it posits is, that the acquisition of wealth without equivalent service rendered by those who acquire it is alike unjust and socially injurious. If Mr. Hobson were to contend, which he does not, that other classes than landowners, monopolisers of land for special uses, and owners of tax monopolies have gained wealth without rendering equivalent service, his objection would have point. Even if this could be shown, as it might be shown of gamblers at the stock exchanges, the question would still arise whether such gambling in monopoly-values would be possible when monopoly-values have ceased to exist. As in this case, so in all cases, the abolition of legalised private monopoly must destroy not only the power of all such landowners, but the power of all others as well to legally obtain wealth in excess of services rendered by them. 

The second objection, admitting that the Single Tax system if generally adopted would secure equal opportunities for all, denies that its adoption in England alone would secure equal opportunities to all the inhabitants of England; and posits that, owing to the world-wide interchange of commodities, the Single Tax system must be adopted in all countries before it can secure equal opportunities to the inhabitants of any country. This argument is of precisely the same character as that which denied the feasibility of the adoption of Free Trade by the United Kingdom as long as other countries refused to do so. It arises from the exaggeration of a well-established fact. Trade benefits both parties to it, and the larger the trade the greater the resulting benefit of each. As long as any country maintains laws, which diminish its trade, it must not only reduce the prosperity of its own people, but the prosperity of others as well, though to a smaller extent. Nor does it matter whether this diminution of interchange arises from laws directly framed for this purpose, or whether it arises from laws, which indirectly achieve this result by reducing production and consumption. 

The application of the Single Tax doctrine, of the Free Trade doctrine, or of any other beneficial economic legis­lation in anyone country therefore produces smaller results than if it were applied in all countries. But to infer from this truth that the application of just and beneficent laws in a single country cannot produce any results, or even that it cannot produce great results, is to fall by exaggeration into untruth. If the general application of the Single Tax system would produce equality of opportunity for all men, its application in England must produce equality of opportunity as far as all Englishmen are concerned. Every inhabitant of England will be free to produce all the wealth his powers enable him to make, and will himself enjoy the whole of it. Likewise will he enjoy untaxed any products of foreign labour, which he may purchase with the products of his own labour. If the foreigners with whom he trades refuse to adopt the Single Tax system, their land will continue to be insufficiently used, they will produce less wealth, and the mass of their people will consume far less wealth than they otherwise would. They therefore will have less power to purchase English goods, and if they have a natural monopoly in the production of any goods which Englishmen want, the latter will be obliged to give more of their own goods to obtain them. The refusal of other nations to adopt the Single Tax system will harm Englishmen to this extent, and to this extent only. But they have now to purchase such monopoly-goods at prices similarly enhanced by this cause, and in several instances further inflated by English customs duties; and most of them have to do this while themselves receiving only a part of the produce of their labour. To give them the full produce of their labour, therefore, is a benefit to all Englishmen, even if other nations refuse to do the like to their members. If they do likewise, the benefit to Englishmen will be greater still. But in no way can it be shown that the refusal of other nations to do the like act of justice will deprive Englishmen of all or even of a major part of this benefit.

It may, however, be held that Mr. Hobson’s objection looks for its justification in another direction, that he is of opinion that largely increased wages would so far reduce the competitive power of English industry as to lead to the exclusion of English goods from foreign markets. 

This, however, cannot be the case. For Mr. Hobson has shown elsewhere with great lucidity that he agrees with the teaching of nearly all modern students of political economy, with F. A. Walker, Gunton, Schoenhof, Gould, Atkinson, Brentano, Schultze-Gaevernitz, and others too numerous to mention, that high wages tend to produce other results; that they increase the consumptive power of a people so largely as to reduce exports to the limit of necessary imports without injury to local industry; that they stimulate the productive power of a nation, the efficiency of labour and capital, to an extent which excludes all fear of loss of competitive power. 

He states :—

“Our evidence leads to the conclusion that while a rise of wages is nearly always attended by a rise of efficiency of labour and of the product, the proportion which the increased productivity will bear to the rise of wages will differ in every employment. … Every rise in wages, leisure, and in general standard of comfort will increase the efficiency of labour; every increased efficiency, whether due directly to these or to other causes, will enable higher wages to be paid and shorter hours to be worked.” [33]

“Though the individual self-interest of the producer cannot be relied upon to favour progressive wages, except in certain industries and up to a certain point, the collective interest of consumers lends stronger support to ‘the economy of high wages.’ We have seen that the possession of an excessive ‘power to consume’ by classes who, because their normal healthy wants are already fully satisfied, refuse to exert this power, and insist upon storing it in unneeded forms of capital, is directly responsible for the slack employment of capital and labour. If the operation of industrial forces throws an increased propor­tion of the ‘power to consume’ into the hands of the working classes, who will use it, not to postpone consumption, but to raise their standard of material and intellectual comfort, a fuller and more regular employment of labour and capital must follow. If the stronger organisation of labour is able to raise wages, and the higher wages are used to demand more and better articles of consumption, a direct stimulus to the efficiency of capital and labour is thus applied. … When it is clearly grasped that a demand for commodities is the only demand for the use of labour and of capital, and not merely determines in what direction these requisites of production shall be applied, the hope of the future of our industry is seen to rest largely upon the confident belief that the working classes will use their higher wages, not to draw interest from investments (a self-destructive policy), but to raise their standard of life by the current satisfaction of all those wholesome desires of body and mind which lie latent under an ‘economy of low wages.'” [34]

Whichever, therefore, is the meaning of the somewhat enigmatical utterance under review, it is manifest that it forms no valid objection to the Single Tax system; that whether the latter is applied in a single country or in many countries simultaneously, its results must be great and beneficial. 

The writers of the Fabian Essaysalso raise one, and only one, objection to the efficiency of the Single Tax system as a remedy for social injustice and the resulting evils.[35]

“Ever since Mr. Henry George’s book reached English radicals there has been a growing disposition to impose a tax of twenty shillings in the pound on obviously unearned incomes—that is, to dump four hundred and fifty millions a year down on the exchequer counter, and then retire with three cheers for the restoration of the land to the people. 

“The result of such a proceeding, if it actually came off, would considerably take its advocates aback. The streets would presently be filled with starving workers of all grades, domestic servants, coachbuilders, decorators, jewellers, lace-makers, fashionable professional men, and numberless others whose livelihood is at present gained by ministering to the wants of these and of the proprietary class. … The Chancellor of the Exchequer would have three courses open to him :—

(1) “He could give the money back again to the landlords and capitalists with an apology.
(2) “He could attempt to start State industries with it for the employment of the people.
(3) “Or he could simply distribute it among the unemployed.

“The last is not to be thought of; anything is better than panem et circenses. The second (starting State industries) would be far too vast an undertaking to get on foot soon enough to meet the urgent difficulty. The first (the return with an apology) would be a reductio ad absurdumof the whole affair—a confession that the private proprietor, for all his idleness and his voracity, is indeed performing an indispensable economic function, the function of capitalising, however wastefully and viciously, the wealth which surpasses his necessarily limited power of immediate personal consumption. And here we have checkmate of Henry Georgeism, or State appropriation of rent without Socialism.” 

This objection, though, or perhaps because, coming from the most intellectual champions of Socialism, is the weakest of all. For it is obviously based on the erroneous assumption that a gradual absorption of rent is impossible, that the whole of it must be appropriated by one sudden act. Its invalidity, therefore, is manifest as soon as it is realised that the process can be gradual; that starting with a moderate tax on all land-values, this tax may be increased from time to time, till, after the lapse of a considerable period, it absorbs the whole rental-value. For under such conditions the disorganisation of industry, so graphically described by the essayist, could not occur. The demand of the working population for goods would grow at a greater rate than the demand of the monopolistic classes for goods and services would decline, and more labour, therefore, would be absorbed in the former direction than could be spared in the latter. The new and greater demand would, it is true, be for a different quality of goods; but those who are skilful enough to produce the superior qualities would also be able to produce inferior qualities of the same goods; and in any case, the change in demand would arise so gradually as to enable even changes of occupation to be made without any great hardship. 

Moreover, this latter difficulty, necessary change of occupation, adheres to Socialism as much, and perhaps more, than to Single Tax. For Socialism also posits the gradual reduction of the wealth of the capitalistic classes and the gradual increase in the wealth of the workers. It, therefore, necessitates a like adaptation of production to these altered conditions. If this necessity is a valid argument against the efficiency of the Single Tax system, it is, therefore, an equally valid argument against the efficiency of Socialism. It is, however, invalid in either case. All social changes, even the most beneficial, must produce some temporary disturbance of existing arrange­ments. Such disturbance, therefore, is no valid argument against reforms, which produce permanent benefits. All that may be claimed is, that the reform be introduced so gradually as to minimise temporary hardship. This the Single Tax system does to an extent, which makes any such temporary hardship almost impossible. 

Mr. Edward Atkinson’s Objections 

THE objections urged against the Single Tax doctrine by two eminent economists[36]are worthy of consideration and examination. One of these is Mr. Edward Atkinson, whose numerous objections,[37]embodied in the following extracts, must be considered seriatim :—

“The Single Tax, whatever its amount may be and at whatever point it may first be collected, can be but the taking of a part of the joint product of land, labour, and capital, by due process of law, from the people who do the actual work by which men subsist; such products thus taken from producers being applied to the consumption of those who do the necessary, but not directly productive, work of the Government.” 

A tax on the value of land is a tax on rent. Rent is not received by any capitalist or labourer, but by the owner of the land. Even if the same person is capitalist, labourer, and landowner, he still receives the rent, not on account of the expenditure of capital or labour on the land, but by virtue of being the owner. He would receive rent just the same if he were neither capitalist nor labourer. Is the landowner, as landowner, one of “the people who do the actual work by which men subsist”? His only work as a landowner consists in the reception of rent. Is this part of the “actual work, etc.”? 

If this question is answered in the negative, as it must be answered, it is admitted that the Single Tax does not take anything from those” who do the actual work by which men subsist,” but merely takes, for the common benefit, common property now absorbed by parasites on produc­tion. Mr. Atkinson is, probably, the only economist of any standing, living or dead, who has asserted, or would dare to assert, that rent is the reward for productive ser­vices rendered by the landowner. Such authorities as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Cairns, Walker, and Marshall, as well as innumerable others, emphatically assert the opposite. … 

“Since such a tax must necessarily be the first lien upon the land, and must be paid year by year, even in advance of its cultivation or its use, for business purposes or dwellings; and since the payment of this tax in money would of necessity become the sole condition on which the possession or use of land for any purpose could be granted by the State, it might happen that the burden would become too great to be undertaken, except by persons who already possess ample capital from which they could advance the taxes in anticipation of recovering them from the product of the land or from the income of their buildings. . 

“Could the poor farmer, the mechanic, or the artisan of moderate means, or, in fact, could any who did not possess ample capital, afford to accept the conditional possession of land under such terms? Each one who now occupies land can answer this question for himself by multiplying the present tax upon his land by five or at least by four.” 

In making this objection Mr. Atkinson seems to have overlooked several obvious and important facts. The first of these is, that poor farmers, mechanics, and artisans of moderate means are not owners of very valuable land, and that if they want to occupy valuable land now, they have to pay a higher rent for the same than the tax would amount to on the full establishment of the Single Tax system. The second fact is, that in addition to a rent higher than the Single Tax, these poor farmers, artisans, and mechanics have now to pay taxes and charges of which the Single Tax system would relieve them absolutely, and which—certainly in the case of American farmers, mechanics, and artisans—largely exceed the annual value of the land which they occupy. The third fact is, that the Single Tax system, by compelling the full use of all valuable land, would largely increase wages. Inasmuch, therefore, as the Single Tax payable by the classes mentioned would be less, and considerably less, than one-half of the burdens which they now bear when using land, while at the same time their power to bear burdens, their wages, would be largely increased, it follows that the Single Tax, instead of reducing the power of poor persons to use land, as Mr. Atkinson asserts, would largely augment that power, enabling them to use land now far beyond their reach. 

Like results would obviously ensue in those cases in which poor farmers, mechanics, and artisans nominally own properties, which are heavily mortgaged. They pay interest and taxes, whereas under the Single Tax system they would be able to occupy land of like value while paying no interest on purchase-money, and a single tax frequently less in amount than they now pay in the multitudinous taxes to which they are subjected. 

It may, however, be that Mr. Atkinson, when he made this sweeping assertion, had in his mind only that small minority of poor persons who own, free of mortgage, the land which they occupy. Such persons, under the Single Tax system, would have to pay a tax equal to the then rental-value of the land, and would only save the amount, which they now pay in taxation. Where such taxation is higher than the rental-value of their land, they will be in a better position to occupy land. Where present taxation is less—a rare case—they will still be in a better position, on account of the increase in their wages. 

Mr. Atkinson’s apprehension, however, becomes some­what ludicrous when the value of land usually occupied by such poor persons as he enumerates is considered. A mechanic or artisan does not generally occupy more land than suffices to support his cottage. Nor is his domicile usually to be found in those quarters of great cities where land-values are high. From £ 60 to £ 100 is usually the value of all the land occupied by cottages of which artisans and mechanics acquire the freehold. Even if rent is calculated at the high rate of interest of 5 per cent, such men would be burdened with annual payments in substitution for, not in addition to, present taxation of from £ 3 to £ 5. 

The freehold farmers of the United States own farms of an average value of $ 2,000, inclusive of improvements.[38]As the latter in new countries bear a larger proportion to land-values than is the case in other classes of real property, $ 1,000 may be safely taken to be the average land­value of American farms. The annual tax payable under the Single Tax system by American farmers, therefore, would, at 5 per cent, amount to $ 50 or £ 10, or less. This sum they would pay, not in addition, but in substitution for existing taxes and undue railway charges. Everyone of them also would thus find his burdens largely reduced by the Single Tax system, instead of their being increased as Mr. Atkinson asserts. 

Finally, Mr. Atkinson assumes that the Single Tax must always be paid in advance of occupation and cultivation. There is nothing to warrant this assumption. Local authorities assessing and collecting the tax will naturally cause it to be payable at a time which embarrasses their constituents least. Anyone entering upon the occupation of waste land—of land surrendered by a former occupier—or taking over land under agreement with its occupier, will, if the land have value, pay the tax on the date fixed by law. This may be the day after he entered upon the land or twelve months later, according to the date of such entrance. To exact the rent in advance, which under Land Nationalisation may be necessary, is not only unnecessary under the Single Tax system, but is foreign to its spirit, and impracticable under the regulations which the application of the system imposes. Mr. Atkinson’s apprehension, therefore, is groundless. The Single Tax system, instead of making it more difficult for poor men to occupy and use valuable land, will render it infinitely easier and more profitable for them to do so. 

“If this theory of a single tax on land were carried into effect it would probably load all desirable lots of land, either in city or in country, with such permanent burdens that none but large capitalists could thereafter afford to occupy them for any purpose whatever. The owners of capital would not then be obliged to pay any principal sum or capital for the purchase of land. They would, therefore, retain the whole of their large capital for its improvement, and they would thereafter secure as large an income from their capital only as they now derive from the rent of the land which they now purchase and capital combined.” 

In refuting the previously cited objection it has been shown that the Single Tax makes it easier for poor men to occupy and use land. The present objection relates to land of great value, and first expresses a fear that such land will be “loaded with such permanent burdens that none but large capitalists could afford to occupy them.” How can the Single Tax add to the burdens of intending occupiers of very valuable land? Take a piece of land of a value of £ 50,000. Under existing conditions the intending occupier may either purchase or rent it. If he does the former, the occupancy and use of the land is burdened with an annual interest charge, which, at 5 per cent, amounts to £ 2500. If he rents the land on long lease his use and occupancy may be burdened with more, and will certainly be burdened with this same amount as rent. In addition, his use and occupancy is in either case burdened with taxes on capital or income, or both. Under the Single Tax system, other conditions being equal, he will be burdened with a smaller rent charge, say £ 2000, and with no taxes on capital or income. Obviously, therefore, whatever the value of the land may be, the Single Tax system must reduce, and cannot increase, “the permanent burdens” on its use and occupancy. Smaller capitalists, therefore, than can now afford to do so would be enabled to use land of great value. 

The second objection is, that owners of capital, instead of paying part of it for land, would devote all of it to improvements, thus reaping as large an income as now. 

If this objection were urged by a socialist working man, ignorant of the rudiments of political economy, it might create no astonishment. But when it is seriously advanced by one of the foremost economists of the United States, innocent of socialistic tendencies, it shows the straits to which the opponents of the Single Tax theory are put. For it is obvious that incomes derived from the ownership of land and from the ownership of improvements differ widely in their economic and ethical character. The former is not a reward for services rendered, but a tribute; it is deducted from the product of the national labour, without the recipient having rendered any assistance to this labour. The latter income is a reward for services rendered; it is a deduction from the product of the national labour, generally less, and never more, than the value of the assistance rendered to this labour. 

Moreover, under existing conditions capitalists do not always devote any great part of their capital to the creation of improvements. In progressive communities they run less risk by devoting nearly all of it to the purchase of land. By keeping this land idle, they, if their speculation is successful, obtain an equivalent to income through the rise in the rental-value of land due to the progress of the community, while avoiding the trouble and risk of seeking investments for surplus income. This action, keeping land out of use, even more detrimental to the general wellbeing than their appropriation of rent, may and frequently gives them a larger income than capitalists could obtain under the Single Tax system, who, with equal success in their speculation, had used a like amount of capital in creating improvements. The income obtained by capitalists who purchase land, therefore, is, either in part or wholly, detrimental to the community; the income, which capitalists obtain under the Single Tax system is wholly beneficial to the community. 

The following two objections, separated in the essay by other matter, are here brought into juxtaposition in order to show their utterly contradictory character :—

“It matters not where the tax is first imposed—whether by a single tax on land or by multifarious taxes on other objects-—this work will be distributed as a part of the cost of the national product, either on the whole or on the special products subject to taxation. Under the Single Tax system the tax would be distributed substantially in proportion to the consumption of all products of every kind by the people of every class. Taxes will not stay where they are put; if hey would, the tax question would be solved with very little difficulty.” 

“Now let it be admitted that a way can be conceived for determining the relative value of every parcel of land in the United States … and that a tax of 5 per cent upon that land would yield a revenue sufficient to defray the entire expenses of the Government; in such event substantially all rent of any kind would be absorbed by the tax. What would next ensue? … The moment land ceased to yield an income or rent to the owner no one would pay him anything for it. The market value of land would no longer exist.” 

If the Single Tax “will not stay where it is put”; if it “would be distributed” among consumers “substantially in accordance with the consumption of products,” it could not lessen the incomes of landowners. Land could not then “cease to yield an income or rent to the owner.” If, on the other hand, the imposition of the Single Tax on land does deprive the owners of land of all income or rent, it is obvious that they pay the tax; that the tax does “stay where it is put,” and cannot be “distributed” among the consumers. Yet Mr. Atkinson asserts that both these mutually exclusive results must be expected. 

“It requires but little observation to prove that neither the area of land nor the value of land as now computed bears any positive or equal proportion to the product. In the production of the crude materials which are converted into food, or the crude fibres which are converted into clothing, a very large area of land is required both in ratio to the quantity and the value of the crude product. 

“With respect, for instance, to wheat, the area of land which must be devoted to its product in a crude form—i.e. as grain—is very great in proportion to the area of land which must be occupied by either the railway, the miller, or the baker, or the dealer who distributes the bread; yet the value which is added” to the wheat by the work of the railway, the miller, the baker, and the tradesman who distributes the bread is about two to one as compared with the value at the farm of the crude product of the wheat of which the bread is made. If land only is taxed, the farmer must pay the larger part of the tax or recover it from consumers in the best way he can devise. If he cannot recover it he must stop work.” 

Though in the first sentence of the above quotation it is insinuated that the subsequent argument will take into account the value of land, no further notice is taken of it, and the conclusion is reached that” farmers must pay the larger part of the tax” because they use “a greater area of land” than subsequent manipulators of crude products. 

Two facts are overlooked: First, that farmers generally pay rent or interest on mortgage and taxes as well, whereas under the Single Tax system they would pay rent alone, and a smaller rent, in the form of a tax. The second is, that though the area of land used by farmers is larger than that used by railways, millers, bakers, and distributers of bread, the value of land used by farmers is not necessarily greater than that used by other classes of the population. 

As the Single Tax is to be imposed in accordance with value and not in accordance with area, the statement that “the farmer must pay the larger part of the tax” could only be true if farming land was more valuable than all the other land of a country. This is a question of fact, and the facts prove that the value of agricultural land everywhere bears but a comparatively small proportion to the value of all land. In the United Kingdom the annual value of all agricultural land, apart from improvements, is about £ 42,000,000, or 20 per cent of the total annual value of land.[39]Instead of paying the greater part of the Single Tax, agricultural land would, therefore, pay only the fifth part of it. 

In the colony of Victoria, agricultural land, inclusive of the land of country towns and hamlets, has a capital value of £ 57,324,405[40]as compared with a total land value of £ 145,569,000.[41]The value of agricultural land may, therefore, safely be placed at less than 35 per cent of that of all the land privately owned. Such land would, therefore, pay less than 35 per cent of the Single Tax, even in this preeminently agricultural and pastoral community, instead of its larger part. 

In the United States the census of 1890 returns the aggregate real value of farms (in round numbers) at $ 13,729,000,000 out of a total taxable real estate value of $ 46,000,000,000.[42]The value of farming land would thus appear to be just under 30 per cent of all land-values, and the contribution of farming land to the Single Tax would also be less than 30 per cent instead of “the larger part.” It is, however, more than probable that, owing to undervaluation of city properties, the proportionate contribution of farmers has been overstated. 

The further assertion, contained in the last sentence of the preceding quotation, that the farmer must stop work unless he can recover the Single Tax, again overlooks the fact that it will be imposed in substitution and not in addition to all the taxes and excessive railway charges which unencumbered freehold farmers now pay; and that more than one half the farmers of the United States, being either tenants or burdened with mortgages,[43]are now paying more than the Single Tax in addition to all other taxes and charges. All the farmers, and especially the latter class, would, therefore, reap much larger incomes under the Single Tax system than they do now, though they cannot shift the tax. As they have not stopped work under existing conditions, it is not to be apprehended that they will do so when their work is so much more profitable. 

“If land should be taxed at its ‘site’ value, without regard to the capital or value of the buildings or improvements upon it, then the poor man who may now be in possession of a small house must pay as much as the rich man who owns a large house in the next lot of the same site-value, or an expensive warehouse in the immediate neighbourhood on another lot of the same site­value.” 

Where poor men own a small house next door to a rich man’s large house, the respective site-values of the land on which these houses stand cannot possibly be the same. It may be so foot for foot, but inasmuch as the large house necessarily occupies a greater area than the small house, its site-value, and the Single Tax, which the owner must pay, must. be greater than that of the small house and of the tax which its owner must pay. Moreover, in the rare cases in which land is occupied by rich men’s houses in working men’s quarters, the rich man’s house is generally surrounded by grounds, while the poor man’s house is not. The rich man, even in these exceptional cases, would, therefore, pay far more than his poor neigh­bours. As a general rule, however, rich men’s houses are built on land which foot per foot is far more valuable than that of which poor men possess the freehold. And further, while the land on which his cottage stands is all the land and all the monopoly-right owned by the poor man, the rich man generally owns other land and mono­poly-rights besides the land on which his house stands. While the contribution of this poor man to the Single Tax, therefore, will be insignificant, that of the rich man will be large. 

“Their (‘the single taxers’) main object would be attained if land should cease to have any saleable or market value, as the result of the Single Tax imposed upon it. Yet the necessity is admitted by them that land should be placed in the possession of private persons in order that labour and capital may be applied to its use and occupancy for purposes of production and distribution. …Would it not become necessary for assessors to be appointed by the national government to establish what the Single Tax system calls the ‘site’ value of land? How would these assessors determine the exact or full amount, which any person could afford to pay for the choice of land or for the selection of a particular site in order either to cultivate or to occupy it? 

“How could this’ site’ value be established without practically leasing the land at specific or fixed rates of annual taxation, established so as to cover long periods of time? Without such permanent possession at a fixed rate who would expend capital upon land?” 

This, the last quotation from Mr. Atkinson’s essay, embraces two objections: one, that it is practically impossible to determine the value of land for purposes of taxation under the Single Tax system; the other, that no one would expend capital on land unless the land were leased for long periods at a uniform rental or tax. 

As to the first of these objections, the annual value of land is determined by competition, and will be so determined under the Single Tax system. The rent payable for houses in a given street will vary with the demand. If a given house, which has a building value of £ 1000, returns a rent of £ 100 one year and of £ 120 the next year, the local assessors know that the rental-value of the ‘site’ and not of the house has increased. It is not the assessors who assess the site-value, but the public demand for the site. No difficulties, therefore, can be encountered in assessing this value. 

As to the second objection, it is true that few persons are foolish enough to expend a large amount of capital in improvements on land belonging to private persons unless they have a long lease of the land. The reason is, that the owner of the land, in the absence of a lease, would be free to confiscate the capital expended or force the tenant to pay rent for improvements made at his own expense. Both these methods of oppression have been and still are prevalent; both would be impossible under the Single Tax system. The value on which the tax is assessed could not be raised or lowered arbitrarily; improvement values could not be included in the assessment; and as long as the tax is paid neither the present holder nor his assignees could be deprived of possession. The occupiers’ security, being practically a perpetual lease at a variable rent, judicially fixed, would be better than the longest lease granted by a private owner. Therefore no one would hesitate to expend capital in improvements under the Single Tax system on the ground that he had not a lease for a number of years. 

That which Mr. Atkinson pronounces impossible is actually being done. In the Chinese possession of Germany the Single Tax system has been adopted. Land is taxed at the rate of 6 per cent on its capital-value, improvements are exempted and no other tax is levied. Re­assessment takes place every three years. Yet merchants and others have erected and are now erecting buildings and other improvements-are expending large amounts of capital on land, under conditions of which Mr. Atkinson asserts that they would make such action impossible. 

Professor Francis A. Walker’s Objections 

FAR more searching than the attacks of Mr. Atkinson are those made upon the Single Tax system by Professor Francis A. Walker, one of the most distinguished of American economists. These attacks are mainly contained in a small volume, Land and its Rent, professedly published to refute Henry George’s doctrines as set out in Progress and Poverty. Professor Walker, however, simplifies his task very materially. As will presently be shown, he does not deny the injurious influence of private property in land on the distribution of wealth; he admits the injustice of landowners appropriating rent without rendering service in return. All he claims is that George has exaggerated the influence of rent on the distribution of wealth; that the injustice involved in private ownership of land is more than compensated for by the advantages which it confers upon the community; and that by refuting the alleged exaggerations he has refuted the validity of the claim that the interests of society urgently demand the appropriation for common purposes of the rent of land. 

The points in George’s arguments to which Professor Walker addresses himself, and his manner of dealing with them, will be considered seriatim, and are as follows :—

“Let us take up, in their inverse order, Mr. George’s three capital propositions. And first, how much is there in the view that commercial disturbance and industrial depression are due chiefly to the speculative holding of land. That land in its own degree shares with other species of property in the speculative impulses of exchange, is a matter of course. Everybody knows it; no one ever thought of denying it. Mr. George makes no point against private property in land unless he can show that it is, of all species of property, peculiarly the subject of speculative impulses. Now this is so far from being self-evident or established by adequate induction that the contrary is the general opinion of economic writers. Of all species of property, land, especially agricultural land, starts latest and stops earliest in any upward movement of prices, as induced, for instance, by a paper-money inflation, which perhaps affords the best opportunity for the study of purely speculative impulses. 

“Of course, there are circumstances under which those impulses may especially attack land, and a wild ‘rig’ may be run in the market for this commodity, as, at other times, in the market for government stocks, mines or railways, or Dutch tulips.” [44]

Is it true that “Mr. George makes no point against private property in land, unless he can show that it is, of all species of property, peculiarly the subject of speculative impulses”? Suppose it were not, is it not possible that whereas speculation in labour-products might inflict little or no harm on the community, speculation in land might inflict infinite harm, though land were no more subject to speculative impulses than labour-products? This, as a matter of fact, is George’s position and also that of common sense. Speculation in wheat, for instance, holding it at the end of a good harvest, in the expectation that the next harvest may prove less plentiful, may be cited as an example of speculation in labour-products, which, by preserving a part of present superfluity to meet subsequent scarcity, is beneficial to the community. Nor can it be shown that, in the absence of monopoly, any speculator in labour-products can benefit himself without conferring at least an equivalent benefit upon the community. On the other hand, no benefit, but only injury to the community, can arise from speculation in land, whether it is specula­tion which keeps land out of use, or which “rigs” the land market in other ways to the temporary increase of land prices and rent. 

While Mr. Walker thus misconceives the problem presented to him, he similarly misunderstands the question, which he himself puts, i.e. whether land is peculiarly the subject of speculative impulses. For obviously this is not merely a question of agricultural land, to which he confines it, but of all land. Which are the main objects of speculation at Stock Exchanges? Railways, tramways, mines, gas and water shares and similar securities, based on the ownership of land or special privileges to land, easily come first. Moreover, any inflation, whether it be a paper-money inflation, or any large addition to capital seeking investment, results first and foremost in the speculative rise of urban properties. Wild speculation in such lands, periodically recurring, can be recalled by any man who has passed middle age in any progressive country where free trade in such land exists. By far the greater part of land-values, therefore, are not merely “peculiarly the subject of speculative impulses,” but are pre-eminently the object of speculative transactions and excesses. 

The peculiarity, here apparent, of regarding agricultural rent as the only rent, adheres to Mr. Walker’s argumentation throughout. As is seen in the foregoing quotation, he even overlooks the obvious fact that mines are as much land as farms, i.e. apart from improvements, and disregards urban rents altogether. Yet, inasmuch as the value of agricultural land represents only a small part of all land­values, this treatment of the subject must necessarily lead to erroneous conclusions. 

“We now come to Mr. George’s second count. The allegation that the enhancement of the value of land, above what should be regarded as the capitalised value of its present productive or income-yielding power, withdraws large bodies of land from cultivation, thus driving labour and capital to poorer and more distant soils, in order to secure the needed subsistence of the community, can only be characterised, so far as all the agricultural uses of land are concerned, as a baseless assumption, for which not a particle of proper statistical proof can be adduced, and which is directly contrary to the reason of the case. 

“Because, forsooth, a man is holding a tract of land in the hope of a rise in its value years hence, does that constitute any reason why he should refuse to rent it, this year or next, and get from it what he can, were it not more than enough to pay his taxes and a part of the interest of the money borrowed, to ‘carry’ the property?” [45]

In a footnote to page 165, Mr. Walker says further: “It will be observed that in the extracts quoted it is cultivation which is spoken of.” Yet, strange to say, while drawing the attention of his readers to this fact, he himself has forgotten it. For all his argument is directed to show that the speculative holders of agricultural land would sooner let it for a small amount than keep it idle. Yet that is not the problem. It is whether these holders will invariably let the land for cultivation, instead of letting it, or themselves using it, for inferior purposes, say the grazing of sheep or cattle. For if valuable land, fit for cultivation and near to markets, is largely used for this inferior purpose, then the consequence urged by George and which Mr. Walker endeavours to disprove must follow; labour and capital must be driven to the cultivation of poorer and more distant soils. 

Is the existence of these conditions “a baseless assumption” “directly contrary to the reason of the case”? Every new and progressive country exhibits them. The most fertile and one of the best watered provinces of the colony of Victoria is known as “the Western District.” It runs along the coast from the Port of Geelong, past those of Warrnambool and Port Fairy, to that of Portland. Two railway lines traverse it from end to end. Land there, though very little improved, averages over £ 10 per acre in value, and con­siderable tracts have changed hands at from £ 25 to £ 40 per acre. Yet this land, held in large areas, and other land like it, have been used almost solely for grazing pur­poses, while intending farmers were compelled to traverse its length in their search for land. They found it in what are known as the Wimmera and Mallee provinces, where a scanty rainfall slightly moistens land of poor quality, and so distant from markets and ports that cartage and railway charges consume nearly all the profit which the farmers’ labour can wring from the ungrateful soil. Land here, though far more highly improved than that of the Western District, has a value of from 10 s. to £ 3 per acre. Is not in this instance labour and capital driven to poor and distant lands, because the owners of the nearer and far more fertile land refuse permission for its cultivation? Yet the rent which farmers would be willing to pay, and in some exceptional instances do pay, for this land, largely exceeds the return which it yields as grazing land. 

Nor is this condition peculiar to this district or to Victoria. It prevails in all the Australian colonies, except where the imposition of taxation upon the value of land has, as in New South Wales and still more in New Zealand, forced the owners of valuable grazing properties to let or sell the most valuable of them for superior uses. 

Nor is this all. In the business quarter of every city hovels may be seen by the side of palaces. The owners will not improve or cannot afford to improve their holdings to the extent which business requires. As a consequence traders are forced to take premises farther away from the centres of trade. The margin of production being thus lowered, rent is increased as much as by the lowering of the agricultural margin. 

In new countries many building lots within the limits of towns and cities are kept idle, frequently in the most desirable situations, enforcing an extension of the city limits and a further increase of rent. 

Around all cities, much land, fit for the intensest culture, is kept idle for speculative purposes. Users will only take it on long leases, owing to the valuable improvements, which intense culture demands. Owners refuse to grant such leases, because it might deprive them of the opportunity to sell the land for building purposes. Similar conditions, modified by entail, exist in Great Britain, as the report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes[46]previously quoted from proves. 

Similarly, large areas of mining land are everywhere held out of use for speculative purposes. To such an extent is this practice carried, that a special term “shepherding” has been invented for it. Combinations for raising the price of mineral products, moreover, like the Copper Trust lately formed in the United States, can only succeed in their nefarious object by restricting the output, either keeping mines idle, or what comes to the same thing, reducing the output of mines. If they succeed, the value of all such mines rises, not the value of the improvements, but the value of the mining land. 

Fixing his gaze upon the least valuable land, agri­cultural land, alone, Mr. Walker has overlooked all these cases in which speculation induces the idle holding of much of the most valuable land in the community, enormously increasing rent, reducing wages, and intensifying many of the worst evils of our civilisation.[47]

Mr. Walker’s third and last point of attack is ingeniously chosen. George states: “Irrespective of the increase of population, the effect of improvements in methods of production and exchange is to increase rent,” and “the necessary result of material progress, land being private property, is, no matter what the increase of population, to force labourers to wages which give but a bare living.” 

These and similar expressions of the same idea are selected by Mr. Walker as the central point of the Single Tax doctrine; this he declares to be “Mr. George’s main proposition, the proposition to which the others are subsidiary.” The acumen with which Mr. Walker has selected the most debatable point in Progress and Poverty is admirable, but even if he had succeeded in disproving it, the main part of the Single Tax doctrine would remain unaffected. For were it shown, as Mr. Walker endeavours to show, that rent does not increase through progress in methods of production when population remains stationary; that under these conditions wages may rise permanently in spite of private ownership of land, the question would still be, Can a permanent rise in wages take place through improvements in productive methods, when population does not remain stationary, when it is increasing in numbers? This is the actual condition accompanying production; and if private rent, under these conditions, deprives the masses of the people of all participation in industrial progress, of any share in the increased produce of their labour, or if it deprives them only of a large share, justice and humanity alike demand the abolition of the private possession of rent. 

Granted, therefore, that it were proved that George somewhat exaggerated the facts of the case, his main proposition would remain unaffected. Let us now see in how far Mr. Walker succeeds in establishing such ex­aggeration. He endeavours to do so by two methods: first, by citing” plain facts of common observation, and by unimpeachable testimony of industrial statistics”; second, by “the reason of the case.” 

Under the first head he cites statistics of wages of agricultural labour in England to show that “the labourer has gained in wages through the labour-saving inventions and improvements of modern times,” and quotes from Professor Emile de Laveleye to show that profits and interest have increased more than rent. 

First as to wages. The Single Tax doctrine does not involve the proposition, and George does not allege that wages may not rise for a time under the impetus of a continuous progress in production, especially when accom­panied by a large exodus of population, such as has taken place during the time adduced by Mr. Walker, i.e. between 1770 and 1870 in England. The question is, How long could labour retain any portion of the result of an improvement in production when all land is private property? Mr. Walker himself, as will presently be shown in full, states that “economic rent tends to increase with the growth of wealth and population.” Improved methods of production invariably result in increase of wealth, therefore, as Mr. Walker admits, in increase of rent. Rent, however, increases slowly through competition. Where, therefore, progress in productive methods is continuous, as it has been in Great Britain during the last century; where, at the same time, a large continent, not yet appropriated, diminishes the local competition for land by withdrawing millions of workers from the labour market, rent advances at a slower rate than productive power, and a margin always remains which can be divided between labour and its employers. But should such progress come to an end, or should it materially slacken, rent will inevitably over­take the increased productive power and wages and profit must fall again-all the quicker if no more free land fit for settlement by labourers were available. 

In setting forth the reasons, which explain the increase of wages in Great Britain in conformity with the Single Tax doctrine, no notice has been taken of those legislative enactments, which, like the abolition of the Corn Laws and of protective legislation generally, have largely reduced the exactions of monopoly. Yet that they have materially assisted in increasing the amount of wealth for which British labour exchanges at the present time would not have been denied by Mr. Walker. 

The second point, that regarding capital, is made in the following quotation from Professor Emile de Laveleye :—

“Who occupy the pretty houses and villas which are springing up in every direction in all prosperous towns? Certainly more than two-thirds of these are fresh capitalists. The value of capital engaged in industrial enterprise exceeds that of land itself, and its power of accumulation is far greater than that of ground rents. 

The immense fortunes amassed so rapidly in the United States, like those of Mr. Gould and Mr. Vanderbilt, were the results of railway speculation and not of the greater value of land. 

“We see, then, that the increase of profits and of interest takes a much larger proportion of the total value of labour, and is a more general and powerful cause of inequality than the increase of rent.” [48]

Apart from the question whether profit and interest could be as high as they are in the absence of the opportunity of investing in monopolies, it is clear that the same considerations, which account for the temporary increase of wages also account for the temporary increase of capitalist earnings. But there arises here the question, What is capital? De Laveleye, and with him Mr. Walker, have evidently mistaken land and monopoly values, and the opportunity for speculation which these afford for capital, as the italicised portions of the preceding quotation proves. They have, similarly, overlooked the patent fact that while many of the owners of “the pretty houses and villas” may have rendered services equal in value to the wealth obtained by them, which landowners do not, the rest, perhaps the majority, may own their wealth by virtue of monopoly-rights, either through increase in the rental­value of urban land, or through speculation in mines, railways, gas and water shares, and similar privileges connected with land. In any case, the misconception, made patent in the above quotation, as to what constitutes capital, deprives the demonstration of any argumentative value. 

Let us now turn to the reasons of the case as stated by Mr. Walker: “It is not only true that an increased production of wealth may involve an enhanced demand for labour as well as for land, but it is also incontestably true that the increased production of wealth rarely if ever causes an increased demand for land without a correspond­ing demand for labour; while, on the contrary, an increased production of wealth may cause an enormous increase in the demand for labour without enhancing the demand for the products of the soil in any degree whatsoever. 

“Here is a pound of raw cotton, the production of which makes a certain demand or drain upon the land. To that cotton may be applied the labour of an opera­tive for half an hour, worth, say, 5 cents. Successive demands for the production of wealth may lead to the application of, first a full hour’s labour, then of two hours, then of three, four, or five; finer and finer fabrics being successfully produced, until at last the pound of cotton has been wrought into the most exquisite articles. Mr. George says that the whole effect of any increase of wealth is to enhance the demand for land. Here is a large increase in production-twofold, threefold, tenfold, perhaps, with no additional demand or drain upon the soil. 

“But I go further, and assert, without fear of contradiction … that the enhancement in the demand for land, in the progress of society, habitually falls short of the enhancement of the demand for labour, the increase of production taking two great forms—one which involves no increase whatever in the materials derived from the soil; the other in which the increased demand for land falls short, generally far short, of the increased demand for labour.” 

As an example of the first kind, Mr. Walker again adduces that of the cotton increased in value by successive doses of labour, and several others of the same kind. No example is given to sustain the second statement. 

Let us rest here and see what all this comes to. The question is whether, “irrespective of the increase of population, the effect of improvements in methods of production and exchange is to increase rent,” and it is agreed that if improvements in methods of production do not add to the demand for land, no such increase of rent can take place. Mr. Walker, however, has again misunderstood the problem. Not “increase in the production of wealth” is in question, but improvements in methods of production, i.e. improvements which enable the same labour to produce more wealth or which enable the same amount of wealth to be produced with less labour. The facts on which he relies, therefore, are not to the point; nay, they do not even show that a greater production of wealth has taken place. For obviously, had the same labour been devoted to the production of a greater quantity of cotton goods of inferior quality instead of making a—smaller quantity of superior quality, the production of wealth might have been the same or greater. What he has shown, therefore, is that labour may be directed to produce the same amount of wealth from a smaller  quantity of raw material, thus reducing the demand for land and for labour in the cultivation of land. That has not been disputed, nor is such a change in the direction of labour an “improvement in the methods of production.” Cotton has been worked up to the finest cloth; wood has been converted into highly-priced furniture; Lucullian dinners have been prepared from a time beyond the memory of man. What is meant by “improvements in methods of production” is not in dispute. They consist of those inventions and discoveries, which increase the productive power of labour, either in enabling the same labour to produce more raw materials or to convert more raw materials into finished products, or, to a much lesser extent, which lessen waste in the use of raw material. Let us stick to cotton. Have improvements in the methods of producing cotton goods added to the demand for land; or, the population not having increased, would these improvements have increased the demand for land and labour? 

The invention of the spinning-jenny, the spinning-mule, the power-loom, the cotton-gin, and the steam-engine are the classical examples of “improvements in methods” of producing cotton goods. They enable the same number of labourers to work up a vastly increased amount of raw cotton, or the same amount of raw cotton to be worked up by a fraction of the labourers previously required. What follows on the supposition that population remained stationary? An increased demand for land to grow cotton upon; an increased demand for coal and iron land to manufacture machines. But no increased demand for labour need have arisen; some of the labourers who could be dispensed with in the manufacture of cotton may have been employed in growing more cotton, raising coal and ore, and manufacturing machines. If it is supposed that some of the population were previously unemployed or only partly employed, more labour may have been employed, but only on condition of using still more cotton and mining land. 

Nor is this all. The inventions spoken of have two further influences. They concentrate manufactures and increase exchanges-both exchanges of intermediate and of consumption-goods. Hence arises a demand, or a greater demand, for land on which manufacturing and exchanging can be conducted most profitably. While the greater demand for raw material, cotton, coal, and ore lowers the base of production, this greater demand for manufacturing and exchanging land raises the apex of production. Rent, therefore, increases not only under the stimulus of one cause, but under that of two causes. 

Let us now introduce the third condition, that all the land is privately owned, and in order to place Mr. Walker in the most favourable position, let us assume that, though all the land is owned, it is not all used. Let us suppose that the least productive cotton land and the least pro­ductive mines known to exist were not previously wanted for the needs of the population. There now arises a demand for them because labour is made more productive even in the production of raw cotton and minerals, for these will now exchange, quantity for quantity, for more cotton goods. Will the owners allow of the use of this land so far idle? If they do not, numbers of labourers, made superfluous by the “improvements in methods” of producing cotton goods, must remain idle. On the other hand, if they are allowed to go to work, they will produce more goods-in the shape of cotton goods-even from this inferior land than they previously could have done from the land next superior in grade. The owners of the land, on the other hand, will receive more cotton goods in wages, profits, or rents than they previously did, even if they continue to keep this land idle. They, therefore, are in a better position for bargaining, while labour is in a worse position. Hence, inevitably, rent will be demanded even for the worst land; rack-renting will ensue, and labour will be deprived of any advantage resulting from “improvements in methods of production.” 

Not only, therefore, is Mr. Walker wrong, but he is ludicrously wrong in the assertion, though he makes it “without fear of contradiction,” that “the enhancement of the demand for land in the progress of society habitually falls short of the enhancement of the demand for labour.” If he were right, progress in methods of production, far from saving human exertion, would increase human exertion, i.e. would not be progress but retrogression. He is likewise wrong, and absolutely wrong, in the assertion that, given private ownership of all land, improvements in manufacturing methods do not increase rent and do per­manently increase wages when the population is stationary. 

Moreover, this error is fully admitted by Mr. Walker himself in his very next indictment of George’s teaching, for he there admits that “improvements and inventions … which affect manufacturing industry … tend to enhance the demand for land, and thus to raise rents,” the very point which he previously denied. 

“We have now only to show … that instead of all improvements and inventions increasing the demand for land, as Mr. George declares, some very extensive classes of improvements and inventions actually operate powerfully, directly, and exclusively in reducing the demand for land,—we have, I say, only to show this to convict this would-be apostle of a new political economy and a regenerated humanity of the grossest incompetence for economic reasoning.”[49]

Strong words these and uncharitable, even if George had been guilty of a serious error. Though Mr. Walker has been convicted here of some serious errors and misconceptions and of one absolute self-contradiction, we would be sorry to apply such terms to him. To err is human, even in economics. The father of the science, Adam Smith himself, has been guilty of some strange errors without thereby having incurred the reproach of “the grossest incompetence for economic reasoning” even from such an infallible authority as Mr. Walker. But to continue the quotation :—

“By far the larger proportion of all improvements fall naturally under three great classes: first, those which affect manufacturing industry; second, those which affect transportation; third, those which affect the cultivation of the soil. 

“Of these three classes it has always been admitted by economists that the first tends to enhance the demand for land, and thus to raise rents, although not necessarily or indeed usually without also enhancing the demand for labour and capital, and thus raising wages and interest. The two remaining classes of improvements tend directly, and indeed operate exclusively, to reduce the demand for land, leaving thus the whole advantage of such improvements and inventions to be acquired by either labour or capital, or in one proportion or another by both labour and capital in enhanced wages and interest. 

“And first of improvements in transportation … Is it the effect of improvements of this class to enhance rents? Absolutely and exclusively the reverse. Whatever quickens and cheapens transports acts directly in the reduction of rents, and cannot act in any other way, since it throws out of cultivation the poorer lands previously in use for the supply of the market, enabling the better soils at a distance to take their place, thus raising the lower limit, or, as it is called, the’ margin’ of cultivation, and thus reducing rents.” 

This exposition overlooks some very evident facts. It overlooks that improvements which cheapen transportation set free a considerable body of men previously employed in inferior methods of transportation; that they cheapen transport, not merely for new land, but also for much of the land previously cultivated; and that a stationary population may and will increase its consumption of wheat or other agricultural products if their price falls. It follows that cheapening of transport, which enables distant and new lands to be cultivated need not throw out of cultivation nearer lands. Take the following case :—

Before the improvement took place, the wheat supply of the world was derived from equal areas of land yielding the following units of value to the same expenditure of labour and capital :—

100 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10

Owing to the reduced cost of transport, new land, previously unprofitable, can be profitably cultivated, yielding 20 and 10 units gross, say K and L, and each of these areas is as large as any of the others. Let us also assume that the older lands benefit by the cheapening of transport as follows :—

A B C D E F G H I  
10 5 10 5 10 10 10 units

Remembering that one of the elements of the problem is that all land is privately owned, and that therefore none can be obtained for use without the payment of some rent, the rent of land before the adoption of the improvement would have been—

A B C D E F G H I  
93 73 63 53 43 33 23 13 3 units

or 397 units in all. After the adoption of the improvement, and if no change in the price of wheat had taken place, rent would have been—

A B C D E F G H I K L  
103 78 73 53 43 38 33 23 13 13 3 units

or 473 units in all. As, however, the increase in the world’s supply of wheat equalled 61/2 per cent, it is not unreasonable to assume that the price of wheat must fall 5 per cent to enable this addition to be consumed. The new rent, therefore, must be reduced to the same extent, i.e. to 450 units. Nevertheless, the increase of agricultural rent, owing to this improvement, is not less than 53 units, or over 13 per cent. Nor is this all the increase. Mr. Walker has further forgotten that improvements in methods of transportation increase, and largely increase, the value of urban land by aggregation of population and concentration of trade. And further, has the building of railways no influence in creating a value in the right-of­way? Are not wharves and land surrounding wharves made more valuable by improvements in shipping? All these facts are too obvious to need proof. 

It is, however, far different with labour and capital. Before the improvement was adopted they retained 7 units of value; thereafter they still retain 7 units of value, but units the value of which is reduced by 5 per cent. Hence the reward of labour and capital in wheat-growing has been reduced by the adoption of the same improvement which largely increases rent. 

Professor Walker, therefore, overlooked the essential facts of the case when he so positively asserted that im­provements in transportation “absolutely and exclusively … act directly to the reduction of rents, and cannot act in any other way.” On the contrary, they act, and invari­ably act, to the increase of rent, and may also reduce the reward of labour and capital even in a stationary population. 

Taking now the case of agricultural improvements, the facts on the whole are no more favourable to Mr. Walker’s contention. Quoting Mill, he shows: “Such improvements are of two kinds, one consisting of those which do not increase the produce, but diminish the labour and expense by which that produce is obtained, such as the improved construction of tools or the introduction of new instruments which spare manual labour, like the winnowing and threshing machines; the other class consisting of those improvements which enable the land to yield a greater absolute produce without an equivalent increase of labour, such as the disuse of fallows by means of the rotation of crops. … By the former of the two kinds of improvement, rent would be diminished; by the second it would be diminished still more.” 

The following is Mr. Mill’s demonstration of these propositions :—

“Suppose that the demand for food requires the cultivation of three qualities of land yielding on an equal surface and at an equal expense 100, 80, and 60 bushels of wheat. The price of wheat will on the average be just sufficient to enable the third quality to be cultivated with the ordinary profit. The first quality, therefore, will yield 40 and the second 20 bushels of extra profit, constituting the rent of the landlord. 

“At first let an improvement be made which, without enabling more corn to be grown, enables the same corn to be grown with one -fourth less labour. The price of wheat will fall one-fourth, and 80 bushels will be sold for the price for which 60 were sold before. But the produce of the land which produces 60 bushels is still required, and the expenses being as much reduced as the price, the land can still be cultivated with the ordinary profit. The first and second qualities will therefore still continue to yield a surplus of 40 and 20 bushels, and corn rent will remain the same as before. But corn having fallen in price one-fourth, the same corn rent is equivalent to a fourth less of money and of all other commodities.” [50]

This demonstration is made valueless by three assumptions, one explicit, the others tacit, all of which are utterly unwarranted. The first is the assertion that .the price of wheat will fall because the cost of its production has fallen, though no more wheat is going to be produced. This assertion is not only contrary to common sense, to all modern theories of value, but also to the theory of value entertained by Professor Walker, the sponsor of this assertion himself.[51]

The erroneous tacit assumptions are that the con­sumption of wheat will not increase in a stationary population when the price is reduced by 25 per cent, and that the labourers who have been dismissed-one­fourth of the whole-will thenceforth lead a life of absolute idleness. That both these assumptions are wrong needs no proof, for it at least cannot be denied that consumption may increase and that some or all these labourers may want to work and may find work. 

The real facts, therefore, are as follows :—

The first effect of the improvement is to largely increase the profit on wheat-growing, while throwing one­fourth of the labourers out of employment. The labourers, so displaced, will seek employment, and will find it readiest in growing wheat on land next lowest in productivity, which, to adhere to Mill’s scale, will yield 40 bushels. If this land is privately owned, one of the conditions of the problem, they will have to pay rent for its use. Say they pay only 5 bushels in rent, and that the same rent was paid for the 60-bushe1 land prior to the introduction of the improvement. Rent which previously stood at 45, 25, and 5 bushels respectively for the three classes of land in use now stands at 65, 45, 25, and 5 bushels for the four classes of land in use. The increased production, increased by 16 2/3 per cent, now tends to reduce prices. Say, with Mill, the reduction in price amounts to 25 per cent. As the earnings of all labour and capital employed in growing wheat cannot be higher than the earnings of labour and capital at the margin, the incomes of all wheat­growers are now lowered by far more than 25 per cent, i.e. they retain wheat about 15 per cent less in quantity, and 25 per cent less in value. Rent, however, is largely increased. From a production of 100, 80, and 60 = 240 bushels, rent took 45, 25, and 5 = 75 bushels, or 31!-per cent; from a production of 100, 80, 60, and 40 = 280 bushels, it takes 65, 45, 25, and 5 = 140 bushels, or 50 per cent. Suppose the price of wheat has fallen from 4 s. to 3 s. on account of the increased production. Rent, which before the improvement stood at 75 x 4 s or 300 s. in all after its introduction, stands at 140 x 3 s. or 420 s. That is, rent has been increased nearly 50 per cent in value, and wages and interest have been reduced largely by an agricultural improvement, which, in a stationary population, increases the productive power of labour by one-fourth. 

This is the extreme case which might happen, and which must happen, unless the greater number of the displaced labourers can find more profitable employment in other occupations than that of growing wheat now affords. If they do, some others will nevertheless produce wheat on 40-bushel land, partly because this is handiest, partly because the withdrawal of the former raises profit and wages again. The output being increased to a small extent only, prices also will fall only to a small extent. Hence the increase in agricultural rent is still larger than under the former supposition, though the fall in profits and wages is less, and there is also an increase in the rent of other land, that on which the majority of the displaced labourers are employed. Obviously, therefore, both Mill and Mr. Walker are wrong when they assert that the sole and inevitable result of such improvements is to reduce rents and to increase wages and interest. The opposite is the case. 

Let us now follow the effects of improvements in agriculture, which increase the produce without an equivalent increase in labour, “such as the disuse of fallows by means of the rotation of crops,” and let us do so again at the hand of Mill’s example. Say, the same amount of pro­duce can now be grown on land previously equivalent to three-fourths of the produce. Mill shows that all the wheat so far demanded can now be grown on land which previously yielded 100 and 80 bushels; that the 60-bushel land will be abandoned; that the land retained will now yield 133 1/3 and 106 2/3 bushels respectively; that wheat will fall in price in the ratio of 60 to 106 2/3; and that, in addition to the loss hence arising, the landlord loses 33 1/3 bushels out of the 60 bushels which he previously received as rent. 

This demonstration suffers from the same defects as the former one, i.e. from the assumption that wheat will fall in price when the cost of production has been lowered, though no greater quantity is going to be produced, and that the labourers thrown out of work will remain idle or disappear from the earth. It suffers from the further defect of assuming that the cost of production has been reduced in the ratio of the increased yield. For it is clear that rotation of crops demands more labour to be expended on the same land than fallowing. Some of the labour previously employed on 60-bushel1and is saved, but not all such labour. 

The rest will continue to be employed on what was 60­bushel land, which will now yield 90 bushels, and the price of wheat will fall owing to this greater production. Say the production is increased by 10 per cent, and that the price of wheat falls 10 per cent. The facts then are: Out of a production of 240 bushels worth 4 s. a bushel rent amounted to 75 bushels worth 300 s. After the improvement is adopted the production amounts to 262 bushels worth 3 6/10 shillings, out of which rent still amounts to 75 bushels worth 270 s. 

The effect of this improvement, therefore, is to reduce rent by 10 per cent, and to increase the return to labour and capital by more than the corresponding amount. Mr. Walker, therefore, was justified in the statement that some agricultural improvements reduce rent, i.e. those, which result in an increased yield without an equivalent Increase in labour, and which are applicable to all land. 

This latter qualification, however, again has been overlooked by him. For on his own theory, if such improvement, say the introduction of a new and valuable plant, is not applicable to all land, as it generally is not, but applicable to some land only, it will obviously increase the rent of such land without adding to the earnings of labour and capital, just as the discovery of a rich mineral deposit has these results. 

The elaborate investigation here made, therefore, leads to these results. Given a stationary population and private ownership of all land, improvements in manufacturing methods do not, in the long-run, increase the earnings of labour and capital, but are absorbed by rent; improvements in methods of transportation inevitably increase rents, and may, to some extent, even reduce the earnings of labour and capital. Of improvements in agriculture, one kind, i.e. that of appliances, increases rents while reducing the earnings of labour and capital; another, i.e. that of methods applicable to some land only, increases rents without affecting the earnings of labour and capital; and a third, a very rare one, i.e. that of methods applicable to all land, reduces rents slightly and increases the earnings of labour and capital. 

While George, therefore, was to some small extent in error when he alleged that, “irrespective of the increase of population, the effect of improvements in methods of production and exchange is to increase rent,” inasmuch as there is one rare class of improvements which fails to do so in the long-run, Mr. Walker’s absolute denial of this generally true fact was a far greater error. 

Not only would he have failed to materially weaken the Single Tax doctrine had he succeeded in his attack upon George’s exposition of it; not only has he failed in this attack, but he himself furnishes valuable testimony to the truth of the doctrine which he assails. . 

Arguing against Bastiat’s theory that rent is a return for service rendered by the landowner, Mr. Walker makes the following statement :—

“A highwayman points a pistol at my head, but offers to spare me if I shall give him 500 dollars, which I proceed to do with the greatest alacrity. In sparing my life he renders me the highest possible service. … Still the question will arise, How came the highwayman to be in a position to do me such a vital service, and after all, what right has he to what was my 500 dollars? 

“In like manner, while the owner of land who at a certain rent leases to me a few acres on which I may work to raise food for myself and family, undoubtedly does me a great service as compared with not giving me leave to cultivate it upon any terms whatever, it will still be rational and pertinent for me to inquire, at least under my breath, what business he has with the land more than I or anyone else.” [52]

“The view of nearly all publicists, founded on the current economic doctrine, (is) that private property in land is a privilege conferring unearned advantages upon individuals only to be justified by the public benefits resulting from the private cultivation and improvement of the soil.” [53]

And further :—

“In the first place, looking to what are called rights of property, it is admitted by all sound writers on public policy that property in land differs markedly and materially from property in capital or in the products of labour. If both species of property are ‘sacred,’ to use a familiar phrase, landed property by almost universal consent stands lower, much lower, in the hierarchy than property in capital.”[54]

Equally explicit is the following statement taken from a later work :—

“It certainly is true, as claimed by the advocates of this policy, that any increase in the rental value or selling value of land (aside from investments of capital already spoken of) is due not to the exertions and sacrifices of the owners of the land, but to the exertions and sacrifices of the community. It is certainly true, as claimed by the advocates of land nationalisation, that economic rent tends to increase with the growth of wealth and population, and that thus a larger and still larger share of the product of industry tends to pass into the hands of the owners of land, not because they have done more for society, but because society has a greater need of that which they control.” [55]

Holding these views, it may well be asked, Why does Professor Walker defend private ownership of land; what are the advantages to the community arising from this system which, in his opinion, compensate, and more than compensate, for its admitted injustice? Land and its Rent, though it does not fail to indicate Mr. Walker’s answer to this question, does not contain as explicit an exposition of it as a subsequent work which, written to in­struct the youthful mind, is far more outspoken. It states :—

“1st. When one considers how much evil results from the comparatively small operations of existing governments which have to do with only a few of the concerns of a people, he cannot but be shocked and revolted at the thought of governments which should own the soil of every farm within their respective territories, which should own the road-bed of every railway and the ground upon which every man’s house, shop, or store was built. The periodical leasing and re-leasing of all these properties, the fixing of their respective rentals, the estimation of improvements made by outgoing tenants would necessarily so increase the work of government, would involve such an army of officials, and would afford such enormous opportunities for corruption and favouritism as to threaten the very existence of human society. 

“2nd. Perhaps an even stronger objection to the common ownership of land is found in the liability to abuse of the soil, whenever it is cultivated by those who are not directly and deeply interested in preserving its fertility. It is always possible so to abuse the land as, within a short term of years, nearly or wholly to destroy its value. Many of the once fairest tracts on earth, which formerly supported large populations in abundance are now little better than sterile deserts, all through man’s reckless or wanton treatment of nature. 

“Now were the owner of all the land to be the State, who can believe that the Government would be able to protect its landed property, spread over thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of square miles, from the most monstrous abuse-abuse that might, in no long time, permanently impair and even destroy much of that property? A single generation of abusive cultivation might cost a nation far more than the value of all the rents that would be reaped by the landlord class under the system of private ownership to the end of time. 

“It is the force of considerations like the foregoing which causes nearly all men who have wide knowledge of public affairs, and who are well read in human history, to accept the system of private ownership of land as inexpressibly superior to collective ownership. Fully as they may recognise the injustice of the social arrangements by which economic rent goes to private individuals, and increases not according to the needs the exertions and sacrifices of those individuals, but according to the needs the exertions and the sacrifices of the community, they yet see no escape from this result, except in a system which would turn government into an intolerable despotism, and would, at the same time, put in peril the permanent productiveness of the soil.” [56]

In a footnote to p. 214, Mr. Walker admits that the second objection, liability to abuse of the soil, does not apply” with equal force, if at all,” to “building lots” and “urban real estate,” but alleges that the first, the political objection, “remains in full force in this case.” 

The foregoing being the only considerations, which Professor Walker adduces in condonation of the injustice of allotting economic rent to private persons, it follows that if this injustice can be removed without inducing the evils predicted, the maintenance of the injustice is an act of wanton violence. That the Single Tax system will abolish the injustice of private rent without adding to, nay, while largely reducing, the functions and powers of governments, has already been proved.[57]There remains to be proved that it will not add to any tendency towards the exhaustion of land which may exist under the system of private ownership. 

Private ownership has not always prevented and does not everywhere prevent the exhaustive cultivation of the soil. The countries to which Mr. Walker alludes as being now little better than sterile deserts while formerly they supported a large population in plenty, Northern Africa, Southern Greece, and others, were reduced to sterility under the system of private ownership. The same process under the same system has converted large areas of the Southern States of the Union into an infertile wilderness. Similarly, the Eastern States of the Union have been, and many other States; as well as much of the land of Australia, are now being cultivated in a manner, which largely reduces their fertility. Neither private ownership nor any other tenure can prevent the exhaustion of the soil where large areas of cheap land are cultivated by a scanty population, because, in these circumstances, it pays better to exhaust the fertility of the land than to preserve it. 

Where, however, owing to increase of population, a more intense system of cultivation prevails, it pays better to maintain the fertility of the soil than to exhaust it—on one condition, i.e. that the user of the soil is the owner of the improvements on the soil and has a permanent tenure. If the land is let on short leases, and the buildings and other improvements belong to the landlord, the tenant may benefit himself by exhausting the land even in closely settled countries. But when the user owns improvements of considerable value, such as are indispensable for intense culture, the destruction of the fertility of the soil would make these improvements value­less. He, therefore, could not benefit but only injure himself by exhaustive cultivation. These, then, are the facts. Where extensive culture prevails, as it does in all newly settled countries, the Single Tax system cannot add to the tendency towards the exhaustive use of the soil; where intense culture prevails, as it does in all the older countries and in the older parts of newly settled countries, the Single Tax system, by giving permanency of occupation and ownership of improvements to the user, would absolutely eradicate the tendency towards an exhaustive cultivation of the soil which private owner­ship has failed to abolish. 

As neither of the evils which are adduced as alternatives to the injustice of private possession of rent can or will arise under the Single Tax system, there can be no legitimate reason for the opposition to that system which the followers of Professor F. A. Walker still maintain. 

Confirmation by Socialists 

THIS demonstration of the sufficiency of the Single Tax system to secure social justice and raise the masses of mankind to a higher plane would be incomplete without the inclusion of affirmative declarations by leading socialist writers. This, the final chapter, therefore, will be devoted to the demonstration that socialists also, at least occasionally, trace to private ownership of land the subjection of labour which they generally attribute to the independent action of private capital; and that they also admit the impotence of capital against labour in the absence of land monopoly. 

Karl Marx devotes the final chapter of Capitalto an exposition of The Modern Theory of Colonisationas propounded by that observant economist and cold-blooded Philistine, E. G. Wakefield, between the years 1833 and 1835. Marx’s comments clearly prove that he fully agrees with Wakefield in the latter’s exposition of the cause of the absence of capitalistic oppression, the independence and prosperity of labour, and the comparative homogeneity of the people of the Australian colonies and the United States at the time, “none being poor and none very rich”; and also, that he admits the efficiency of the measures proposed by Wakefield to alter these features of colonial life, and subject the people to capitalistic domination. 

The following extracts will show this in detail :[58]— “It is the great merit of E. G. Wakefie1d to have discovered, not anything new about the colonies, but to have discovered in the colonies the truth as to the conditions of capitalist production in the mother-country. 

As the system of protection at its origin attempted to manufacture capitalists artificially in the mother-country, so Wakefield’s colonisation theory … attempted to effect the manufacture of wage-workers in the colonies. …

“First of all, Wakefield discovered that in the colonies property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, do not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if there be wanting the correlative—the wage-worker, the other man who is compelled to sell himself of his own free-will. He discovered that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things. Mr. Peel, he moans, took with him from England to Swan River, West Australia, means of subsistence and of production to the amount of £ 50,000. Mr. Peel had the foresight to bring with him, besides, 3000 persons of the working class-men, women, and children. Once arrived at his destination, ‘Mr. Peel was left without a servant to make his bed or fetch him water from the river.’  

‘”In the Northern States of the American Union,’ says Wakefield, ‘it may be doubted whether so many as a tenth of the people would fall under the description of hired labourers. … In England … the labouring class compose the bulk of the people.’ Nay, the impulse to self-expropriation, on the part of labouring humanity, for the glory of capital, exists so little, that slavery, according to Wakefield himself, is the sole natural basis of colonial wealth. … ‘The first Spanish settlers in San Domingo did not obtain labourers from Spain. But without labourers their capital must have perished, or at least must soon have been diminished to that small amount which each individual could employ with his own hands.’ … We have seen that the expropriation of the mass of the people from the soil forms the basis of the capitalist mode of production. The essence of a free colony, on the contrary, consists in this: that the bulk of the soil is still public property, and every settler on it, therefore, can turn part of it into his private property and individual means of production without hindering the later settlers in the same operation. This is the secret both of the prosperity of the colonies and of their inveterate vice—opposition to the establishment of capital. ‘Where land is very cheap and all men are free, where everyone who pleases can easily obtain a piece of land for himself, not only is labour very dear, as respects the labourers’ share of the produce, but the difficulty is to obtain combined labour at any price.”’ …

The sentence in the foregoing quotation, stating that the possession of capital does not stamp a man as a capitalist in the absence of the man who is compelled to sell himself, is seen to be in full agreement with the Single Tax theory when Marx’s definition of capital as an instrument of exploitation is remembered. It admits that where labour is independent, where labourers have the opportunity to employ themselves, the private pos­session of capital confers no power of dominating and exploiting labour. Nor does Marx leave any doubt as to what constitutes “the instrumentality of things” which establishes the “social relation” in which the possession of capital converts a man into a capitalist, i.e. confers upon him the power to exploit labour. For he declares that “the expropriation of the mass of the people from the soil forms the basis of the capitalist mode of production”; that easy access to land “is the essence of a free colony,” is the secret both of the prosperity of the colonies and of their freedom from capitalistic domination. And further, he quotes with approval, “Where land is very cheap and all men are free, where everyone who pleases can easily obtain a piece of land for himself, not only is labour very dear, … but the difficulty is to obtain combined labour at any price.” That is, Marx admits that free access to land, by enabling some labourers to employ themselves, raises the wages of all labour to a high level and substitutes for the existing competition between labourers for employment the competition of capital­ists with each other for labourers. And he further admits the contention that, under such conditions, labour having access to land, the position of labour in higgling for its reward is stronger than that of capitalists, for he again quotes with approval, “Without labourers their capital must have perished, or at least must soon have been diminished to that small amount which each individual could employ with his own hands.” 

Yet, with the full knowledge of these truths, knowing that capitalistic oppression arises from land monopoly and cannot exist in the absence of land monopoly, Marx and his followers have advocated and still advocate, not merely the abolition of land monopoly, but the abolition of that which they themselves show to be innocuous in the absence of land monopoly-the private ownership of capital. 

The following quotation makes these admissions in even a clearer manner :—

“The great beauty of capitalist production consists in this—that it not only constantly reproduces the wage­worker as wage-worker, but produces always, in proportion to the accumulation of capital, a relative surplus population of wage-workers. Thus the law of supply and demand of labour is kept in the right rut, the oscillation of wages is penned within limits satisfactory to capitalist exploitation, and lastly, the social dependence of the labourer on the capitalist, that indispensable requisite, is secured—an unmistakable relation of dependence, which the smug political economist can transmogrify into one of free contract between buyer and seller, between equally independent owners of commodities, the owner of the commodity capital and the owner of the commodity labour. But in the colonies this pretty fancy is torn asunder. The absolute population here increases much more quickly than in the mother-country, because many labourers enter this world as ready-made adults, and yet the labour market is always understocked. The law of supply and demand of labour falls to pieces. The wage­worker of to-day is to-morrow an independent peasant, or artisan, working for himself. He vanishes from the labour market, but not into the workhouse. This constant transformation of the wage-labourers into independent producers, who work for themselves instead of for capital, and enrich themselves instead of the capitalist gentry, reacts in its turn very perversely on the conditions of the labour market. Not only does the degree of the exploitation of the wage-labourers remain indecently low; the wage-labourer loses into the bar­gain, along with the relation of dependence, also the sentiment of dependence on the abstemious capitalist. Hence all the inconveniences that our E. G. Wakefield pictures so doughtily, so eloquently, so pathetically. 

“The supply of wage-labour, he complains, is neither constant, nor regular, nor sufficient. ‘The supply of labour is always, not only small, but uncertain!’ ‘Though the produce divided between the capitalist and the labourer be large, the labourer takes so great a, share that he soon becomes a capitalist. … Few even of those whose lives are unusually long can accumulate great masses of wealth.’ The labourers most distinctly decline to allow the capitalist to abstain from the payment of the greater part of their labour. It avails him nothing if he is so cunning as to import from Europe, with his own capital, his own wage-workers. They soon ‘cease … to be labourers for hire; they … become independent landowners, if not competitors with their former masters in the labour market.’ … On account of the high wages, says his disciple Merivale, there is in the colonies ‘the urgent desire for cheaper and more subservient labourers for a class to whom the capitalist might dictate terms, instead of being dictated to by them. … In ancient civilised countries the labourer, though free, is by a law of nature dependent upon the capitalists; in colonies this dependence must be created by artificial means.’ …

“After Wakefield has contrasted the English capitalist agriculture and its ‘combined’ labour with the scattered cultivation of American peasants, he unwittingly gives us a reverse of the medal. He depicts the mass of the American people as well-to-do, independent, enterprising, and comparatively cultured, whilst’ the English agricul­tural labourer is a miserable wretch, a pauper…. In what country, except North America and some colonies, do the wages of free labour employed in agriculture much exceed the bare subsistence for the labourer?’ ” 

Thus it is admitted that where land is easily accessible to labour the labour market is never overstocked; the passing of some wage-workers from the labour market to the land, reacting upon the labour market, keeps wages high; wage-labourers, having thus ceased to be dependent upon capitalists, lose also the sentiment of dependence; wages are so high that workers soon own capital and great masses of wealth cannot be accumulated. 

The following quotation shows the reverse of the medal, i.e. how a high price and consequent monopoly of land enslave labour; and how under such conditions a surplus of labour and an artificially enhanced competition of labourers for employment can be created by measures, the failure of which to achieve this object when land is easily accessible has been admitted in the preceding quotation :—

“How then to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies? … Let the Government put upon the virgin soil an artificial price independent of the law of supply and demand, a price that compels the immigrant to work a long time for wages before he can earn enough money to buy land and turn himself into an independent peasant. The funds resulting from the sale of land at a price relatively prohibitory for the wage-workers, this fund of money extorted from the wages of labour by violation of the sacred law of supply and demand, the Government is to employ, on the other hand, in pro­portion as it grows, to import have-nothings from Europe into the colonies, and thus keep the wage-labour market full for the capitalists. … By this plan, Wakefield cries in triumph, ‘the supply of labour must be constant and regular, because, first, as no labourer would be able to procure land until he had worked for money, all immi­grant labourers, working for a time for wages and in combination, would produce capital for the employment of more labourers; secondly, because every labourer who left off working for wages and became a landowner would, by purchasing land, provide a fund for bringing fresh labour to the colony.’ The price of the soil imposed by the State must, of course, be a ‘sufficient price,’ i.e. so high ‘as to prevent the labourers from becoming independent landowners until others had followed to take their place.’ This ‘sufficient price for the land’ is nothing but a euphemistic circumlocution for the ransom, which the labourer pays to the capitalist for leave to retire from the wage-labour market to the land. 

Marx concludes the chapter from which these quotations have been extracted, and his book, with the following observations :—

“However, we are not concerned with the condition of the colonies. The only thing that interests us is the secret discovered in the New World by the political economy of the Old World, and proclaimed on the house­tops, that the capitalist mode of production and accumu­lation, and therefore capitalist private property, have for their fundamental condition the annihilation of self-earned private property-in other words, the expropriation of the labourer—that is, the exclusion of labour from the land.” 

Open the land to labour, give to all equal rights and equal access to land, and what Marx terms “the capitalist mode of production,” the subjection of labour, is ended, as he himself shows. 

Later socialists, no less than Marx himself, occasionally make these admissions, as the following examples prove :—

“On Socialism the analysis of the economic action of Individualism bears as a discovery, in the private appropriation of land, of the source of those unjust privileges against which Socialism is aimed. It is practically a demonstration that public property in land is the basic economic condition of Socialism. … The income of a private proprietor” (of land) “can be distinguished by the fact that he obtains it unconditionally and gratuitously. … Socialism involves discontinuance of the payment of these incomes, and addition of the wealth so saved to incomes derived from labour. … Economic rent, arising as it does from variations of fertility or advantages of situation, must always be held as common or social wealth, and used, as the revenues raised by taxation are now used, for public purposes.” [59]

The Fabian essayist admits, as Marx admits, that “the private appropriation of land is the source of those unjust privileges against which Socialism is aimed”; explains that the rent of land must be substituted for revenues raised by taxation, as the fund from which public expenditure may be met. This obviously is the Single Tax doctrine. Why, then, insist upon the public owner­ship and management of capital? If the essayist is right, the latter is the merest surplusage. 

“The growth of knowledge of political economy made it constantly more apparent that the Radical ideal of ‘equality of opportunity’ is absolutely impossible of attainment, even in infinite time, so long as individual ownership of land exists.” [60]

“What the achievement of Socialism involves econo­mically, is the transfer of rent from the class which now appropriates it to the whole people. Rent being that part of the produce, which is individually unearned, this is the only equitable method of disposing of it. There is no means of getting rid of economic rent. So long as the fertility of land varies from acre to acre, and the number of persons passing by a shop window per hour varies from street to street, with the result that two farmers or two shopkeepers, of exactly equal intelligence and industry, will reap unequal returns from their year’s work, so long will it be equitable to take from the richer farmer or shopkeeper the excess over his fellow’s gain which he owes to the bounty of Nature or the advantage of situation, and divide that excess or rent equally between the two. If the pair of farms or shops be left in the hands of a private landlord he will take the excess, and instead of dividing it between his two tenants, live on it himself idly at their expense. Socialism is not, of course, to equalise farmers and shopkeepers in couples, but to carry out the principle over the whole community by collecting all rents and throwing them into the national treasury. As the private proprietor has no reason for clinging to his property except the legal power to take rent and spend it on himself -this legal power being, in fact, what constitutes him a proprietor—its abrogation would mean his expropriation. The socialisation of rent would mean the socialisation of the sources of production by the expropriation of the present private proprietors, and the transfer of their property to the entire nation. This transfer, then, is the subject-matter of the transition to Socialism, which began some forty-five years ago, as far as any phase of social evolution can be said to begin at all.” [61]

“The theft of the land and its conversion into per­sonal property was the origin of bondage, which has passed through all possible phases from slavery to the ‘free’ workmen of our day, till at length, after a development covering thousands of years, the land will be reconverted into common property by the bondsmen themselves.” [62]

“The whole equivalent of every source of fertility or advantage of all land over and above the worst in economic use, is under free competition necessarily abstracted from the mere worker on it. So long as Lady Matheson can ‘own’ the island of Lewis, and (as she says) do what she likes with her own—so long as the Earls of Derby can appropriate at their ease the unearned increment of Bootle or Bury—it is the very emphatic teaching of political economy that the earth may be the Lord’s, but the fulness thereof must inevitably be the landlord’s.” [63]

“The phenomenon of economic rent has assumed prodigious proportions in our great cities. The injustice of its private appropriation is glaring, flagrant, almost ridiculous. In the long suburban roads about London, where rows of exactly similar houses stretch for miles countrywards, the rent changes at every few thousand yards by exactly the amount saved or incurred annually in travelling to and from the householders’ place of business. The seeker after lodgings, hesitating between Bloomsbury and Tottenham, finds every advantage of situation skimmed off by the landlord with scientific precision. As lease after lease falls in, houses, shops, goodwills of businesses, which are the fruits of the labour of lifetimes, fall into the maw of the ground-landlord. 

“Confiscation of capital, spoliation of households, annihilation of incentive, everything that the most ignorant and credulous fund-holder ever charged against the socialist, rages openly in London, which begins to ask itself whether it toils only for the typical duke and his celebrated jockey and his famous racehorse.” [64]

The history of government contains few more shame­ful chapters than that which records how during this period the Legislatures—municipal, State, and national—seconded by the Executive and the Courts, vied with each other, by wholesale grants of land, privileges, franchises, and monopolies of all kinds, in turning over the country, its resources, and its people to the domination of the capitalists, their heirs and assigns for ever. The public lands, which a few decades before had promised a boundless inheritance to future generations, were ceded in vast domains to syndicates and individual capitalists, to be held against the people as the basis of a future territorial aristocracy with tributary populations of peasants. Not only had the material substance of the national patrimony been thus surrendered to a handful of the people, but in the fields of commerce and of industry all the valuable economic opportunities had been secured by franchises to monopolies, precluding future generations from opportunity for livelihood or employment, save as the dependants and liegemen of a hereditary capitalist class. In the chronicles of royal misdoings there have been many dark chapters recording how besotted or imbecile monarchs have sold their people into bondage, and sapped the welfare of their realms to enrich licentious favourites; but the darkest of those chapters is bright beside that which records the sale of the heritage and hopes of the American people to the highest bidder by the so-called democratic State, national and local governments, during the period of which we are speaking.” [65]

” Either we must submit for ever to hand over at least one-third of our annual product to those who do us the favour to own our country, without the obligation of rendering any service to the community, and to see this tribute augment with every advance in our industry and numbers, or else we must take steps, as consistently as may be possible, to put an end to this state of things.” [66]

These quotations clearly demonstrate that, from the father of modern Socialism downward, thinking men among the socialists have been unable to close their eyes to the truth that social injustice, the subjection of labour, and the exploitation of labour have as their cause and origin private ownership of land. They admit that were land freely and equally accessible to all, labourers would be free to enjoy the wealth, which they make. They, therefore, also admit that capital is powerless for evil in the absence of land monopoly. 

Why, then, are they socialists? Why do they insist upon the necessity of measures which they themselves thus declare to be unnecessary, and which, as has been shown here, are fraught with the utmost danger to society? Is it that the Single Tax doctrine is too simple to satisfy for long the craving for extended action, which possesses so many men? Can it be that the truth, the light of which occasionally illuminates their thoughts, cannot be retained by minds enamoured of the fascinating occupation of devising vast projects for the regeneration of mankind? Whether this is the true explanation or not, this much is certain, that these socialists themselves bear witness to the sufficiency of the Single Tax system for the attainment of the ultimate objects at which socialists aim, and which Socialism cannot attain. 

Social wellbeing is not to be found outside of the happiness of those who constitute society; their happiness cannot be achieved by anyone but themselves-by each for himself. All that the State can do is but negative—to prevent anyone from invading and curtailing another’s happiness, or the opportunity for producing his own happiness, to which he is entitled. Equal rights and equal opportunities, these the State can secure. Beyond this, not only can it do nothing, but every step beyond involves a curtailment of opportunities for the happiness of all and an infringement of the equal rights of some. This truth, so clear, so simple, so obvious, must guide all attempts at social reforms. To have overlooked it is the central error of Socialism; the point where its teaching leaves the path which, leading upwards and ever upwards, must ultimately lift mankind to the greatest heights attain­able by it; where it enters upon the path which, leading downwards and ever downwards, must deprive mankind of all the progress which it has wrung from the pain and suffering of untold generations. 

The End

[1]Lord Bramwell, Nationalisation of Land, p. 9. Published at the Central Office of “The Liberty and Property Defence League.”
[2]“Fabian Tract,” No. 7, Capital and Land, pp. 3, 4, and 7. 
[3]Fabian Tract, No. 7, Capital and Land, pp. 4, 5. Published by “The Fabian Society.” 
[4]See Part II. chap. viii.
[5]See Part II. chaps. ix. and x.
[6]The italics are mine.
[7]  J. C. Spence, Property in Land, published at the central office of The Liberty and Property Defence League. 
[8]Wm. E. H. Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, vol. ii. pp. 293, 294.
[9]Professor T. H. Huxley, “Natural Rights,” Nineteenth Century, February 1890. 

[10]Ibid. p. 182

[11]“Natural Rights,” Nineteenth Century, February 1890, p. 191. 

[12]“Natural Political Rights,” Nineteenth Century, February 1890, p. 192; Method and Results(Essays, vol. i.), p. 374. 

[13]PartII. chap. viii.

[14]Part II. chap. iv. 

[15]Land and Capital, p. 2. (The italics are Lord Bramwell’s.)

[16]Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, vol. i. p. 175. 

[17]It is denied by all historians of national economy, amongst them by one of the bitterest opponents of the Single Tax theory, in the following terms :—

“That individual ownership of land is of comparatively recent institution … ; that even when the private ownership of land was instituted, rights of property were coupled with political and military duties and fiscal obligations, which constituted no inconsiderable compensation to the community for the loss of its interest in the land; and, finally, that these political and military duties and fiscal obligations have been thrown off by the landowning class, through the exertion of their superior power and influence in the formation of public policies and in the enactment of laws, without any adequate commutation thereof; these things seem to me too well established to admit of question.”—Land and its Rent, by F. A. Walker, pp. 128, 129. 

[18]Part III. chaps. vi. and vii. 

[19]That even a small tax on land-values tends to restrict speculation in land and the holding of land for inferior purposes, is admitted in the following passage taken from The Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, 1885 :—

“At present land available for building in the neighbourhood of our populous centres, though its capital value is very great, is probably producing a small yearly return until it is let for building. The owners of this land are rated, not in relation to the real value, but to the actual annual income. They can thus afford to keep their land out of the market, and to part with only small quantities so as to raise the price beyond the actual monopoly price, which the land would command by its advantages of position. Meantime, the general expenditure of the town on improvements is increasing the value of their property. If this land were rated at, say 4 per cent on its selling value, the owners would have a more direct incentive to part with it to those who are desirous of building, and a twofold advantage would result to the community. First, all the valuable property would contribute to the rates, and thus the burden on the occupier would be diminished by the increase in the rateable property. Secondly, the owners of the building land would be forced to offer their land for sale, and thus their competition with one another would bring down the price of building land, and so diminish the tax in the shape of ground-rent or price paid for land which is now levied on urban enterprise by the adjacent property owners-a tax, be it remembered, which is no recompense for any industry or expenditure on their part, but is the natural result of the industry and activity of the townspeople themselves. Your Majesty’s Commissioners would recommend that these matters should be included in legislation when the law of rating comes to be dealt with by Parliament.”

[20]See Part II. chap. x.


[22]The following figures taken from the Statistical Registers (1897) of the Colonies of Victoria and New South Wales show the small amount of capital required by labourers to enable them to take their place as full partners in co-operative factories :—

Colony. No. of workers in factories. Value of capital in factories, i.e. machinery, plant, buildings, and improvements. Value of capital per worker employed
VictoriaNew South Wales 52,70151,439   £ 8,993,544£ 9,974,228   £170   13   1 £190     8   1 

American statistics, though less definite, nevertheless confirm this result. The Abstract of the Eleventh Census, 1890, gives the following figures: Capital of manufacture and industrial works $ 6,139,397,785, average number of employees 4476,884. The amount of capital for each employee would thus appear to be $ 1371 or £ 274. As, however, the “capital” recorded includes land-values and may also include other monopoly-values, the amount of real capital will scarcely be larger per worker than it is in the Australian colonies cited above. 

Sir Benjamin C. Browne, President of the North-East Coast Association of Engineers and Shipbuilders, Newcastle-on-Tyne, has favoured me with the following information:—

“£ 150 is just about the amount of capital required per man in engineering, shipbuilding, etc. in England. … For example, in my own works the capital account is, including debentures, just below £ 600,000, and when fairly busy, but not extremely so, we employ just about 4,000 men. … I think if you took £ 125 as a minimum and £ 175 as a maximum you would be very safe, except for purely repair business or where some very exceptional circumstances arose.” 

[23]“In the Thames Valley ten or twelve villagers in Flackwell Heath took between them a farm of mine of over 2.00 acres, at the same rent as the outgoing tenant paid. They have had it for four years, and are working it profitably and paying their rent. They employ more labour than the old tenant did; they pay better wages; and one man, during the first year of his take, grew more corn and straw on twenty acres than was got off the whole farm the year before, when it was cultivated by a single farmer. 

“The parish of Humberstone, in Lincolnshire, is part of the Carrington estate, and consists of 2700 acres. The custom in this village has always been, that three or more acres of land go with most of the cottages. … In Humberstone the labourers’ children are healthy and well fed, and the labourers are industrious, steady, hardworking men, who have for themselves solved the problem of Old Age Pensions by their own savings from their little piece of land and cows. … There are no poor, and I do not know of anyone of this parish going to the workhouse or receiving outdoor relief for years. …

“Another proof that allotments pay is afforded by the applications made to the Holland County Council for small holdings. In 1892, 112 applications were made, and everyone of the applicants possessed capital ranging from £ 10 to £ 100, which they had obtained by cultivating allotments. …

“What also is a most important feature is, that many of the tenants are young men who would certainly not have been content in that district on a mere weekly wage of 12 s. or 15 s., but would assuredly have tried their fortunes in our large towns. …”—”The Land and the Labourers,” by Lord Carrington, The Nineteenth Century, March 1899. 

[24]Hyndman, The Historical Basis of Socialism, pp. 300, 301. 

[25]See Appendix, Table I. A pamphlet issued by the Fabian Society, Facts for Socialists, p. 5, states the annual rental-value in the UnIted Kingdom to be £ 230,000,000.

[26]See Appendix, Table II.  

[27]See Appendix, Table III. 

[28]See Appendix, Table IV.

[29]See Appendix, Tables V. and VI. 

[30]“It will not, I think, be generally disputed that the last sixty years have seen a very great advance in the condition of a very large part of the people” (p. 16). “It is unnecessary to say very much about the general rise in money wages which has taken place since 1837. There seems no reason to doubt, so far as concerns the male workers, the general accuracy of Sir Robert Giffen’s conclusion that the rise in nearly all trades has been from 50 to 100 per cent” (P.9). “I see no reason to doubt the statistical conclusion that prices are on the whole lower than in 1837” (p. 22).—Sidney Webb, Labour in the Longest Reign.

[31]See Part n. chap. x.

[32]J. A. Hobson, “The Influence of Henry George in England,” Fortnightly Review, December 1897.

[33]J. A. Hobson, The Evolution of Modern Capitalism, pp. 274, 275.

[34]J. A. Hobson, The Evolution of Modern Capitalism, pp. 282, 283. 

[35]Fabian Essays, pp. 189, 190.

[36]Precedence would have been given to the arguments urged against the justice and expediency of the Single Tax system by Herbert Spencer in Justice, but for the fact that Henry George has so fully refuted them, alas! not without excusable bitterness, in A Perplexed Philosopher, that further refutation is as impossible as unnecessary.

[37]“A Single Tax upon Land,”The Century Magazine, July 1890.

[38]Report of Bureau of Labour Statistics of Illinois, 1894, subject, “Taxation,” p. 131. 

[39]See Appendix, Table I.

[40]Return of Government Statist, 1893.

[41]See Appendix, Table IV. 

[42]Shearman, Natural Taxation, p. 184.

[43]3 Ibid.

[44]Land and its Rent, pp. 162, 163. 

[45]Land and its Rent, pp. 164, 165. 

[46]See Part V. chapter v.

[47]On l0th February 1899, Mr. E. J. C. Morton, M.P. for Devonport, referring in the House of Commons to the condition of this town, in support of an amendment to the Address, in favour of land-value taxation, made the following statement :—

“The case which I want to bring before this House is not a case where the grievance is that the inhabitants cannot purchase or become possessed of their holdings. It is a case where there is a famine in land, and where the difficulty is to get the land on which holdings can be built; where you actually have land held up by the landlord for the purpose, and with the intention, and effect, of running up the rent of the remainder. … 

“I have had experiences, in the course of going through my own constituency, which are absolutely heartrending. I know one street of fifty-one houses with an average of a whole family for every room in it. I have gone into houses in which, going up the stairs, one is afraid that one would put one’s foot through the wood-through the actual staircase—so absolutely rotten is the fabric. There I have found in one room a husband, wife, and five children. On the same landing, in the only other room on that landing, I have found the father of a family, an elderly man, and his wife, and a married daughter and her child living in one room, in which they have to do all their cooking and all their washing. They are living under conditions in which morality itself would appear to be almost impossible, and yet—and, to my mind, that is the most dreadful feature of the case—these people who exist in this condition are decent people—they are respectable people-and I have actually had people living like this come to me and beg me not to tell of the conditions under which they live, because they are ashamed of it themselves, and yet these conditions are absolutely inflicted upon them against their will, and without any remedy being possible by their exertions or the exertions of any one else, excepting the exertions of this House.” 

On the same occasion, Mr. Flynn, M.P. for Cork, North, stated :—

“If there is one thing more than another which has tended to keep many of the towns of Ireland in that backward, wretched, and dirty condition which so unfavourably impresses visitors and every traveller through it, it is the system of ground landlordism which enables one landlord to hold the land of an entire town in his grasp, and to refuse to part with it for building purposes except on the payment of enormous fines. There is no escape, under such circumstances, from increased rents when the leases fall in. There is nothing more depressing than to drive into an average Irish town and see the tottering cabins, on which no sane man would think of laying money out because of the precariousness of the tenure, and the certainty that improvement would result in profit, not to the man who made the improvement, but to the ground landlord.”

Mr. Asquith, M.P., confirmed these statements, as follows :—

“Take any of our great towns where the ownership of the soil is, as is very often the case, in the hands of the single individual. What is the case there? In the first place, the owner may capriciously, or from a mistaken sense of his own interest, or a thousand and one other motives, refuse to allow the use of his land for building and other purposes—land which is absolutely necessary for the due development of the community; and he may hold back that land from the market in the hope that at some distant date he would obtain for it an increased value. In the meantime there is no power vested in the community to obtain the land, which is so essential to its life and health; and while that land is lying idle it does not contribute, under our law, a single penny to defray the growing expenses of the community. Is that an exaggerated description of the existing state of things? That it is possible under an existing law nobody disputes; it appears in case after case, town after town, and is within the experience of hundreds of honourable Members of this House.” 

[48]Land and its Rent, p. 169. (The italics are mine.) 

[49]Land and its Rent, pp. 174, 175. 

[50]Land and its Rent, pp. 178, 179. 

[51]“If … the market value is above the cost of production, some, perhaps all, who have been producing this article will produce more of it, perhaps much more of it. It is even possible that some persons who have not been previously engaged in producing this article may now undertake to do so. The supply being by these means increased, market value will turn downwards toward or to the normal value.”—Walker, First Lessons in Political Economy, p. 76. 

[52]First Lessons in Political Economy, p. 63. 

[53]Ibid. p. 66.

[54]Ibid. p. 198.

[55]F. A. Walker, First Lessons in Political Economy, p. 209. 

[56]F. A. Walker, First Lessons in Political Economy, pp. 2I2-214. 

[57]See Part V. chap. v.

[58]Capital, pp. 791-800. 

[59]Fabian Essays, pp. 26, 27. 

[60]Sidney Webb, Socialism in England, p. 20. 

[61]Fabian Essays, p. 179.  

[62]Bebel, Woman, p. 200. 

[63]S. and B. Webb, Problems of Modern Industry, pp. 237, 238.

[64]Fabian Essays, pp. 188, 189.

[65]Edward Bellamy, Equality, pp. 282, 283. 

[66]S. and B. Webb, Problems of Modern Industry, p. 240.