[Reprinted from the
Single Tax Review, 1915]
God created the land, the water and the air, their value manifestly
to be used by all men of all generations. No other title was granted.
Men collectively only can create "economic rent," the "unearned
increment," site value, location value, land-value, the rental
value of bare land exclusive of improvements. Land values cannot be
produced by an individual.
True economic rent is the cost of the advantage of increased
efficiency due to subdivison of human effort; it is the price of
social as against solitary existence. Land values justly belong to the
community producing them, by the same right of property that
individually-created values belong to the individual producing them.
Without grave injustice to its producing members, a community cannot
omit to collect and use its own publicly-produced earnings, or, so
much of economic rents as may be required for public expenditures.
Omission necessitates needlessly taxing private production.
Purchasing a land title for speculative purposes, or except for use
of the location, is acquiring a publicly-produced privilege to
individually appropriate the joint product of others without rendering
service therefor. It has no other possible value.
Dealing in land in order to individually absorb the unearned
increment is immeasurably more detrimental to industry, business, and
society in general, than the petty forms of private and public
gambling the law has already frowned upon.
A poker player buys chips which represent a privilege to bet he will
win wealth. He lives by such winnings, solely upon the earnings of
others. A land speculator buying a land title purchases a privilege to
privately appropriate public earnings of a community - the product
created by pressure of population. Poker chips accurately illustrate
the rights and the true relationship of land titles to the people. A
title owner may forestall progress by purchasing land in the path that
business must take and thereby become legally enabled to collect
tribute of wealth producers. But, as a land owner only, he produces
nothing. He lives, by such tribute, solely upon the earnings of
Gambling for wealth, the product of labor and capital applied to
land, merely transfers previously produced wealth from one foolish
loser to a shrewd or accidental winner, each of whom, to be poker
players, should be gentlemen well able to afford such losses. It
morally affects both, but financially affects but one of them. It does
not affect the total store of wealth, hinder the further production of
wealth, reduce the net returns of labor and capital, nor add to the
cost of living.
Gambling in land, the creation of God and the primary source of all
wealth, transfers previously produced wealth from many producers, who,
by reason of the present general superficial comprehension or lack of
mental alertness as regards economics, have thus far been helpless to
prevent it. In every community the losers are fully ninety per cent of
Land speculation and idle-land holding absorbs from the general store
of wealth without rendering any value in return; it tends to keep
production of wealth to the minimum, and to cause its inequitable
distribution; it paralyzes business; it holds wages and interest, the
earnings of labor and capital, to the minimum; it adds tremendously
and with utter needlessness to the cost of living; it is the
fundamental cause of involuntary poverty, of disease, of war, and of
the imagined need of socialism.
The sovereign remedy is to gradually abolish all taxes on industry,
business and thrift, and in lieu thereof derive all public revenue
from the rental value of land - the public earnings.