.




























The Land Question



Quotations from Historical
and Contemporary Sources



WHAT FOLLOWS ARE EXCERPTS FROM THE CENTURIES-LONG DEBATE OVER WHETHER LOCATIONS ON THE EARTH -- AND/OR THE RENT ASSOCIATED THEREWITH -- OUGHT TO BE TREATED AS PRIVATE OR SOCIETAL PROPERTY.


BROWSE BY AUTHOR



A-C * D-E * F-H * I-L * M-Q * R-S * T-Z

Daly,
Herman




ENLARGE

Herman Daly is professor of economics in the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland. The following excerpts are from a speech delivered 30 April 2002 at the World Bank:

Value added belongs to whoever added it. But the original value of that to which further value is added by labor and capital should belong to everyone. Scarcity rents to natural services, nature's value added, should be the focus of redistributive efforts. Rent is by definition a payment in excess of necessary supply price, and from the point of market efficiency is the least distorting source of public revenue.

Appeals to the generosity of those who have added much value by their labor and capital are more legitimate as private charity than as a foundation for fairness in public policy. Taxation of value added by labor and capital is certainly legitimate. But it is both more legitimate and less necessary after we have, as much as possible, captured natural resource rents for public revenue.

The above reasoning reflects the basic insight of Henry George, extending it from land to natural resources in general. Neoclassical economists have greatly obfuscated this simple insight by their refusal to recognize the productive contribution of nature in providing "that to which value is added". In their defense it could be argued that this was so because in the past economists considered nature to be non-scarce, but now they are beginning to reckon the scarcity of nature and enclose it in the market. Let us be glad of this, and encourage it further.

The modern form of the Georgist insight is to tax the resources and services of nature (those scarce things left out of both the production function and GDP accounts) -- and to use these funds for fighting poverty and for financing public goods. Or we could simply disburse to the general public the earnings from a trust fund created by these rents, as in the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is perhaps the best existing institutionalization of the Georgist principle. Taking away by taxation the value added by individuals from applying their own labor and capital creates resentment. Taxing away value that no one added, scarcity rents on nature¹s contribution, does not create resentment. In fact, failing to tax away the scarcity rents to nature and letting them accrue as unearned income to favored individuals has long been a primary source of resentment and social conflict.

Darrow,
Clarence
(1859-1938)




ENLARGE

Darrow, an attorney in the United States, made his reputation, in part, by his defense of a schoolteacher who dared to teach the scientific basis for evolution to students in a Southern school. Of Henry George, Darrow wrote:

Henry George was one of the real prophets of the world; one of the seers of the world. ...His was a wonderful mind; he saw a question from every side. ...When we learn that the value or land belongs to all of us, then we will be free men -- no need to legislate to keep men and women from working themselves to death; no need to legislate against the white slave traffic. ...The "single tax" is so simple, so fundamental and so easy to carry into effect that I have no doubt that it will be about the last land reform the world will ever get. People in this world are not often logical.

Darrow,
Clarence


The single tax is so simple, so fundamental, and so easy to carry into effect that I have no doubt that it will be about the last land reform the world will ever get.

Davenport,
Herbert J.




ENLARGE

It is obvous that the bare land with its contents and the waters that flow through and about it constitute the nature-provided environment of human beings and are rightly the subject of their equal claims. Also that the value-for-use of these natural resources is conditioned on population. It follows populaton as its shadow. It appears with the people and disappears when they go. This value, therefore, should, by the best of titles, be retained by the community as its most excellent source of public revenue. The more the community draws upon this vast, community-conditioned fund the less will be the forced contributions from labour and capital. this means that the greater and better distributed wil be the purchasing power of the people..

[H.J. Davenport, Professor of Economics, Cornell University]

Day,
Alan
(Professor)


It is arguable that the whole of the rent of land, or alternatively, of the capitalised value of rents, could be taxed away and yet the community would not suffer. In this respect land is different from the other factors of production.

[From comments made at a Colloquium on Land Values held in London, March, 1965. Professor Day taught at the London School of Economics from 1949 to. 1983. ]


Deakin,
Alfred
(1857-1919)




ENLARGE

The whole of the people have the right to the ownership of land and the right to share in the value of land itslef, though not to share in the fruits of land which properly belong to the individuals by whose labour they are produced.


[Australian Prime Minister]

Dewey,
John
(1859-1952)




ENLARGE

Dewey is considered to have possessed one of the great minds of the twentieth century. His ideas regarding education were and are controversial, if often misrepresented by opponents. In the early 1930s, Dewey became the first honorary president of the Henry George School of Social Science in New York City. His attachment to the ideas of Henry George was life-long:

Henry George is one of the great names among the world's social philosophers. It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with him. ... No man, no graduate of a higher educational institution has a right to regard himself as educated in social thought unless he has some firsthand acquaintance with the theoretical contribution of this great American thinker.

Douglas,
Paul




ENLARGE

We ask only that the men and women who make up society should be allowed to share in the increases in value which their presence and productivity have created. Unless there is such a public awareness and commitment, we shall repeat the history of the past and permit those who sit tight and hold on to a scarce factor of production to reap a large part of the product created by others. We are becoming properly aware of the need for land reform in the countrysides of Asia and Latin America. There is an even greater need for land reform in the cities and suburbs all over the world -- our own country included.

[U.S. Senator from Illinois and Chairman, U.S. Natinal Commission on Urban Problems, 1968]


Dove,
Patrick Edward


Patrick Edward Dove, a Scotchman, was the most remarkable anticipator of Henry George. In 1850 he published anonomously The Theory of Human Progression, and Natural Probability of a Reign of Justice. This is a diffuse work largely taken up with philosophical and theologial specualation; economic problems hardly seem to be the main issue. However, Dove referred to the land question as "the main question of England's welfare."

How comes it that, notwithstanding man's vast achievements, his wonderful efforts of mechanical ingenuity, and the amazing productions of his skill, ... a large portion of the population is reduce to pauperism? ...To charge the poverty of man on God, is to blaspheme the Creator. ...He has given enough, abundance, more than sufficient; and if man has not enough, we must look to the mode in which God's gifts have been distributed.

[from: The Theory of Human Progression, pp. 322, 320, 387]



Dove diagnosed the cause of poverty as the denial of the natural right of all to the land of their birth, "the alienation of the soil form the state, and the consequent taxation of the industry of the country."

Dove believed that the actual division of the land, even if possible, would be futile as a remedy. The solution was to be found in "the division of its annual value or rent," which could best be done "by taking the whole of the taxes out of the rents of the soil, and thereby abolishing all other kinds of taxation whatever." If this were done "all industry would be absolutely emancipated from every burden, and every man would reap such natural reward as his skill, industry, or enterprise rendered legitimately his, according to the natural law of free competition."

"The rent of any one portion of soil does not depend on the labour or capital that has been expended on that portion. ...For instance, if, in the heart of London, a space of twenty acres had been enclosed by a high wall at the time of the Norman Conquest, and if no man had ever touched that portion of soil," or even seen it from that time to this, it would, if let by auction, produce an enormously high rent."

[Patrick Edwrd Dove, Elements of Political Science (1854), p. 283]



"Political economists have insisted much on the small matters that affect the value of labour. By far the most important is the mode in which the land is distributed. Wherever there is a free soil, labour maintains its value. Wherever the soil is in the hands of a few proprietors, or tied up by entails, labour necessarily undergoes depreciation. In fact, it is the disposition of the land that determines the value of labour. If men could get the land to labour on, they would manufacture only for a remuneration that afforded more profit than God has attached to the cultivation of the earth. Where they cannot get the land to labour on, they are starved into working for a bare subsistence."

[Patrick Edward DOVE, Theory of Human Progression (1850), p. 406 n]




Dove,
Patrick Edward


We are fully aware that there exists in the minds of many persons a vague apprehension, tht if the present laws relating to landed property were to be disturbed, evils of the most malignant character would invade the society of Britain. Nothing could be more absurd, more puerile, more dastardly. The very same fears have prevailed with regard to every other change that has taken place.

[From: Theory of Human Progression (1850), Chap. III., Sec. 3, pp. 294-5 (Edition of 1895)]


Dove,
Patrick Edward


The great social problem, then, that cannot fail ere long to appear in the arena of European discussion is, "to discover such a system as shall secure to every man his exact share of the natural advantages which the Creator has provided for the race; while, at the same time, he has full opportunity, iwhtout let or hindrance, to exercise his skill, industry, and perseverance for his own advantage."

[From: Theory of Human Progression (1850), Chap. III., Sec. 3, p. 305]


Dove,
Patrick Edward


Let it be observed that when land is taxed, no man is taxed; for the land produces, according to the law of the Creator, more than the value of the labor expended on it, and on this account men are willing to pay a rent for land.

[From: Theory of Human Progression (1850), Chap. I., Sec. 2, p. 44 (American Edition of 1895)]


Downs,
Anthony




ENLARGE

Anthony Downs is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and member of the HUD Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.

We should make a fuller case for stronger land taxation as a means of reducing housing costs.

[Source not known]



There has been too much money flowing into real estate and that this excessive cash flow has created many money-driven rather than demand-driven markets.

[From: "Tax Reform: What About Real Estate?," Urban Land, August, 1985, p. 14.]


Downs,
Anthony
and
Stanley,
Knighton


This seemingly modest reform [a 2-rate building-to-land property tax shift] enabled Pittsburgh, Scranton, Harrisburg and a dozen smaller cities to keep housing costs down, and renew and revive blighted neighborhoods. These activities, in turn, unlocked job opportunities. If the District [of Columbia] went to a split-rate [2-rate] system, the experience in Pennsylvania cities indicates that: (a) homes and apartments on average would enjoy lower taxes; (b) owners of vacant lots and blighted buildings would pay substantially higher taxes; and (c) poor precincts would reap the proportionately greatest reductions.

[Washington Post, 24 September, 1995, p.C.8]


Durning,
Alan




ENLARGE

Taxes on income, payroll, property and retail sales discourage entrepreneurship, hiring, investment, savings and work ... they also encourage sprawl, depletion of natural resources and pollution of land, air and water. ...They could be replaced with taxes on land values and on actions that pollute, deplete or destroy habitat.

[From: "This Place on Earth" (1996)]


East,
Ronald




ENLARGE

We have gone wrong on the land question, and everything else has gone wrong automatically. I believe that there is no greater or more urgent task of leadership for the engineer than to help the community to a clear understanding of the simple economic laws that govern distribution of benefits from human activities.

[The source of the quote is not known. SCI believes this comes from Ronald East, who served Australia as President of the Institution of Engineers in the 1950s with an expertise on water usage]


Eckert,
Charles


Now, what about tax on land values? We have observed that land values are the result of community growth and advancing civilization. They do not come into being as a result of the activity of any particular individual, but by the activity of all the people functioning as a social organism. Therefore, since no particular individual is responsible for the origin and growth of land values, but are due to the activity of all the people, it is clear that the profits issuing from land values belong to all the people.

[Member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1930s, and one-time President of the Henry George Foundation of America]


ECONOMIST
MAGAZINE


By cutting taxes on labour, governments can remove one disincentive to join the job market; by cutting taxes on capital, one disincentive to save.

But by taxing the use of natural resources -- be they oil, or cadium, or the dirt-absorbing capacity of the atmosphere -- governments can not only pay for lower taxes on labour and saving; they can also make markets work better, by ensuring that prices reflect the full costs of economic activity.


[From: The Economist, May 5, 1990]


Einstein,
Albert
(1879-1955)




ENLARGE

I have already read Henry George's great book and really learnt a great deal from it. Yesterday evening I read with admiration -- the address about Moses. Men like Henry George are rare, unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form, and fervent love of justice. Every line is written as if for our generation. The spreading of these works is a really deserving cause, for our generation especially has many and important things to learn from Henry George.

[From: a letter to a Pennsylvania women in response to a letter inquiring whether Einstein had read Progress and Poverty, 1931. A copy of this letter is available in the SCI library]


Eisenhower,
Dwight D.
(1890-1969)




ENLARGE

At the end of the Second World War, Eisenhower held a unique vision of the future, one that would ensure both peace and prosperity. He asked:

Why the world's resources could not be internationalized, since raw materials represented the world's basic needs, they should belong to and serve everybody.

[From: Blanche Cook. The Declassified Eisenhower, 1985, p.229]


Ely,
Richard T.




ENLARGE

One of the factors leading to the confusion which has surrounded the taxation of land values is the old theory of economic rent. Those who hold this theory regard land income as the result of the spontaneous action of nature and land values as the consequence of the niggardliness of nature in failing to provide an adequate supply of land in relation to man's need for it. Economic evoluton has disproved many of the hypotheses on which the Richardian theory of rent is based. ...The concept of economic relativity must lead us to draw up plans for the taxation of land vlaues which will meet the needs of different times and of different places.

[From: "Taxing Land Values and Taxing Building Values," The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. CXLVIII, No. 237, March, 1930, p.169]


Emerson,
Ralph Waldo




ENLARGE

Whilst another man has no land, my title to mine, and your title to yours, is at once vitiated.

[source not identified]


Emerson,
Ralph Waldo


As I am born to the earth, so the earth is given to me, what I want of it to till and to plant; nor could I without pusillanimity omit to claim so much.

[From: The Conservative, A Lecture delivered at the Masonic Temple, Boston, December 9, 1841]


Emerson,
Ralph Waldo


Grimly the same spirit (of progress) looks into the law of property and accuses men of driving a trade in the great, boundless providence which has given the air, the water and the land to men to use and not to fence in and monopolize.

[From: On the Times (1841)]


Emerson,
Ralph Waldo


I find this vast net-work, which you call property, extending over the whole planet. I cannot occupy the bleakest crag of the White Hills or the Allegheny Range, but some man or corporation steps up to me to show me that it is his.

[From: The Conservative, A Lecture delivered at the Masonic Temple, Boston, December 9, 1841]


Emerson,
Ralph Waldo


Then he says: "If I am born into the earth, where is my part? Have the goodness, gentlemen of this world, to show me my wood lot, where I may fell my wood, my field where to plant my corn, my pleasant ground where to build my cabin." ..."Touch any wood or field or house-lot on your peril," cry all the gentlemen of this world; "but you may come and work in ours for us, and we will give you a peice of bread."

[From: The Conservative, A Lecture delivered at the Masonic Temple, Boston, December 9, 1841]


Erskine,
John




ENLARGE

I would say that the single tax theories of Henry George have always seemed to me unanswerable, and I believe that when we have tried other forms of taxation long enough to be convinced of their injustice -- and I don't know how many centuries that will take -- we shall be ready for his simple and convincing ideas.

[John Erskine was a professor of english at Columbia University. During the 1920s he introduced a "great books" program, writing: “If the faculty believed that the boys in college ought to be familiar with more than the titles of great books, that happy result could be achieved in a new kind of course, extending through two years, preferably the junior and senior years, and devoted to the simple principle of reading one great book a week, and discussing it in a weekly meeting which would last two or three hours.”]

Evans,
George Henry




ENLARGE

"Evans subscribed to the idea that property rights derived their legitimacy from the right of every human being to himself and the fruits of his labor. But land was the gift of God, not the product of toil. It followed that 'the land should not be a matter of traffic, gift, or will' and government's duty to preserve natural rights entailed a duty to regulate land tenure for the common good. 'If any man has a right on earth, he has a right to land enough to raise a habitation on,' Evans wrote in 1841. 'If he has a right to live, he has a right to land enough for his subsistance. Deprive anyone of these rights, and you place him at the mercy of those who possess them.' National Reformers claimed that the doctrine of natural rights provided both a diagnosis and a cure for the crisis of republican government in America -- a crisis manifested by 'the haggard, care-worn countennace of the daily laborer, the wasting form of the overtasked seastress . . . [and] the squalid children trained to beggary and deceit.' The surplus of 'white slaves' caused by the mechanization of labor meant that working people were rapidly losing the autonomy necessary for responsible citizenship. 'By restoring his natural right to the soil,' Evans insisted, 'the laborer would not be dependent on the employer, and would consequently rise to his proper rank in society.' All the people's representatives had to do was fix a limit on the amount of land any individual might own."

[from: p. 172 of Charles McCurdy's Anti-Rent Era in New York Politics: 1839-1865]





A-C * D-E * F-H * I-L * M-Q * R-S * T-Z