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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.


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Ingersoll,
Robert G.




ENLARGE

I am satisfied that all human beings are entitled to the essentials of life, that is to say, to water, to air, and to land.

[From: The George-Hewitt Campaign, by Louis F. Post]


Ivins,
Molly




ENLARGE

Poor ol' Henry George must be down there in his grave spinnin' like a cyclotron. We, the people at large, build the freeways, the roadways, the airports, the schools, the wter and sewer connections, the bridges, the ports and the sports arenas; we have an raise the children (with ever less help from the government) who want to move t the far suburbs and so make the land more desirable, and then the landowners want us to pay them because we won't allow them to poison the air we all have to breathe or to pollute the rivers we all have to drink from. They say we are hurting their land values.

Well, ex-cuuuse me. The air and the water belong to all of us; it's the polluters who are ruining our property values. Why should we be paying them?


[From: "Henry George is spinning in his grave," Kansas City Star, 9 March, 1995]


Jackson,
Andrew



ENLARGE

Every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add ... artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society -- the farmers, mechanics, and labourers -- who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favours to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government.

[Source not known]



The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual. ...May we not hope, therefore, that all good citizens, and none more zealously than those who think the Indians oppressed by subjection to the laws of the States, will unite in attempting to open the eyes of those children of the forest to their true condition, and by a speedy removal to relieve them from all the evils, real or imaginary, present or prospective, with which they may be supposed to be threatened.

The prosperity of our country is also further evinced by the increased revenue arising from the sale of public lands, ...


[From: Second State of the Union Address, (1832)]



Jefferies,
Richard



ENLARGE

John Richard Jefferies (1848 - 1887 ) was an English nature writer, essayist and journalist. He wrote fiction mainly based on farming and rural life. The Story of My Heart (1883) is an autobiographical outpouring of his deepest thoughts and feelings.

This our earth this day produces sufficient for our existence. This our earth produces not only a sufficiency, but a superabundance, and pours a cornucopia of good things down upon us. Further, it produces sufficient for stores and granaries to be filled to the rooftree for years ahead. I verily believe that the earth in one year produces enough food to last for thirty. Why, then, have we not enough? Why do people die of starvation, or lead a miserable existence on the verge of it? Why have millions upon millions to toil from morning to evening just to gain a mere crust of bread?

[From: The Story of My Heart (1883), Chap. X]


Jefferies,
Richard




That any human being should dare to apply to another the epithet "pauper" is, to me, the greatest, the vilest, the most unpardonable crime that could be committed. Each human being by mere birth has a birthright in this earth and all its productions; and if they do not receive it, then it is they who are injured, and it is not the "pauper," oh, inexpressibly wicked word! -- it is the well-to-do who are the criminal classes.

[From: The Story of My Heart, Chap. X, p. 122]


Jefferson,
Thomas
(1743-1826)




ENLARGE

Along with Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson was one of the most inventive and intellectual of the so-called Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Jefferson was the principal author of colonial Declaration of Independence from the British empire and royal subjugation. Among other things Jefferson wrote concerning the land question was this:

The earth is given as a common stock for men to labor and to live on. ... Wherever in any country there are idle lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.

[From: Writings of Jefferson. Ford, Lesson IX.]


Jefferson,
Thomas

The earth belongs always to the living generation; they may manage it, then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct.

[From: Works, Washington's Edition, III,, 106]


Jefferson,
Thomas


Whenever there is any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural rights. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on..

[From: a letter to Jame's Madison father, Reverend Madison, 28 October 1785]



Jupp,
Kenneth

People should pay to society the value of what they receive from society, which is reflected in the value of the land they occupy. To allow that value to be bought and sold between private individuals is morally wrong. Land is, by natural law, the common property of the community.

[Kenneth Jupp served as a Judge on the British High Court]


Kahn,
Alfred E.




ENLARGE

I have never seen a convincing refutation of the Henry George proposition that taxing the rental value of land would actually increase the supply offered in the market, whereas taxing capital must to some extent interfere with the growth of productivity.

[Professor of Economics, Cornell University; quote from the forward to Tertius Chandler's 1980 book The Tax We Need]


Kant,
Immanuel




ENLARGE

All men are originally in a common collective possession of the soil of the whole earth.

[From: Philosophy of Law, Part I., Chap. 2, Sec. 16]


Kaysen,
Carl




ENLARGE

It is important that the rent of land be retained as a source of government revenue.

It provides revenue with which governments can pay for socially valuable activities without discouraging capital formation or work effort, or interfering in other ways with the efficient allocation of resources.


[Professor of Economics, M.I.T.; from a letter dated November 7, 1990 to Mikhail Gorbachev, signed by 30 prominent persons, mostly economists]


Keller,
Helen
(1880-1968)




ENLARGE

In a letter to a Mr. Hennessy dated January 14, 1930, Keller wrote:

Who reads shall find in Henry George's philosophy a rare beauty and power of inspiration, and a splendid faith in the essential nobility of human nature.

Keller,
Helen

I was deeply touched by your thoughtfulness in sending me a Braille copy of "Significant Paragraphs from Progress and Poverty." Each paragraph has given me a wonderful sense of being in the presence of a great lover of mankind. I know I shall find in Henry George's philosophy a rare beauty and power of inspiration, and a splendid faith in the essential nobility of human nature.

[Source not identified]


Kemp,
Jack




ENLARGE

Kemp, a leading dissident Republican and advocate of what has been called supply-side economic policy, included this statement in a book that revealed his vision for the future:

Property taxes could profitably be revised to fall more heavily on land rather than, as at present, penalizing property improvements.

[From the book: An American Renaissance, p.94]


Kenyatta,
Jomo




ENLARGE

When the white man came we had the land and they had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed and when we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.

[Jomo Kenyatta (1889-1978) was prime minister of Kenya; source of this statement is not known]


Keynes,
John Maynard
(1883-1946)




ENLARGE

The proposals and analyses of this British economist served as the basis for the economic policies of numerous governments following the Second World war. Keynes, who argued convincingly for for government intervention in the economy to stimulate private production, not only failed to challenge the institutional arrangements that permitted the few to monopolize the earth, he was opposed to the solution proposed by Henry George. Nonetheless, he did recognize some of: the more subtle, detrimental side effects of land speculation. On this subject, Keynes wrote:

There have been times when it was probably the craving for the ownership of land, independently of its yield, which served to keep up the rate of interest ... The high rates of interest from mortgages on land, often exceeding the probable net yield from cultivating the land, have been a familiar feature of many agricultural economies ... The competition of a high interest-rate on mortgages may well have had the same effect in retarding the growth of wealth from current investment in newly produced capital-assets, as high interest rates on long-term debts have had in more recent times.

[From: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936]


Keystone Party
(Pennsylvania)


We believe that the unduly high price of land in this county, causing high rents for both factory and home, is the greatest obstacle in the development of diversified industries in this district. These high prices are due largely to the speculation in land by which a few individuals appropriate to themselves the values resulting solely from the growth of the community.

In order to remedy this, we would greatly relieve the improvements on land from taxation, and to this end, we favor the reduction of assessments on such improvements at the rate of ten per cent a year for a period of five years, thereby reducing taxes on all improved real estate and somewhat increasing them on land held out of use. Such a policy would tend to reduce rents and to cause the improving of unused land to the great benefit of all the people.


[From the platform of The Keystone Party, adopted 22 July 1911 (drafted by Ralph E. Smith)]


King,
Martin Luther




ENLARGE

An intelligent appraoch to the problems of poverty and racism will cause us to see the words of the Psalmist, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" -- are still a judgment upon our use and abuse of the wealth and resources with which we have been endowed.

[From: A Testament of Hope: The Essential Speeches and Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., pp. 629-630]


Kingsley,
Charles
(1819-1875)




ENLARGE

God has made the earth free to all, like the air and the sunshine, and you are shut out from off it. The earth is yours, for you till it. Without you it would be a desert. Go and demand your shre of what corn, the fruit of your own industry.

[From: Alton Locke (1849), Chap. XXVIII, p. 298 (Speech of Alton Locke in this novel)]



Kinsley,
Michael E.




ENLARGE

As the late Henry George famously pointed out, wealth accruing in land operates like a tax on the productive facotrs in the economy, labor and capital. His solution was to lower the value of land as close as possible to zero by taxing away all of the return, or monopoly rent, and using the money to reduce (or, in his ideal, eliminate) taxes on the productive factors.

[From a commentary, "Let's Hear It for a Drop in Home Values," Wall Street Journal, Thursday, 5 June 1986]

Kinsley,
Michael E.


Ownership of natural resources like land or oil does not 'create' or 'supply' anything. The profit from such ownership is a direct transfer from the rest of society.

[New Republic, June 1981]


Kinsley,
Michael E.


As my favorite economist, Henry George, pointed out a century ago, inflated land vaues make the economy less efficient. They operate like a tax on the truly productive factors, labor and capital.

[From: a column in the Washington Post, September 22, 1988]


Kinsley,
Michael E.


Ideally, all taxes should be zero because all taxes discourage the activity being taxed. (The exception is the land tax, as Henry George famously noted, because land has nowhere to go.) Taxes on labor discourage work and encourage sloth. Taxes on capital discourage thrift and encourage consumption.

[From: an editorial in The New Republic, February 12, 1992]


Kleran,
John




ENLARGE


Kleran, a sportscaster, later gained fame as the jug-eared, wide-eyed star of "Information Please," a national radio and television question-and-answer programa pioneer radio broadcaster in the United States, said of Henry George:

No one should be allowed to speak above a whisper or write more than ten words on the general subject (of economics) unless he has read and digested Progress and Poverty.


Lalor,
James Fintan


In early 1847, Lalor, along with many of his fellow Young Irelanders, founded the Irish Confederation as an attempt to establish a pacific middle ground between the Repeal movement and Young Ireland. Lalor also attempted unsuccessfully about this time to form a Tenant Rights Association in his home county. He was a regular contributor to nationalist newspapers The Nation and The Irish Tribune.

The Irish Famine of '46 is example and proof. The corn crops were sufficient to feed the island. But the landlords would have their rents in spite of famine and in defiance of fever. They took the whole harvest and left hunger to those who raised it. Had the people of Ireland been the landlords of Ireland, not a human creature would have died of hunger, nor the failure of the potato been considered a matter of any consequence.

[source not identified]


Lalor,
James Fintan


I hold and maintain that the entire soil of a country belongs of right to the entire people of that country, and is the rightful property not of any one class, but of the nation at large.

[source not identified]


Lapushchik,
Tatiana


The single-tax that George proposed, and Tolstoy advocated, promised t remove the slavery. Under this plan, the economic rent would be nationalized. To do so, it is not necessary for the government to confiscate all the land and become the biggest landowner. All that is necessary is for government to tax the land so that its effective value is zero. Given the inelastic nature of land supply, it is possible to capture the whole rent value without affecting the price for the consumer. An owner might still derive income from improvements, but what he gets for land he will pass on to the government. Before, however, we proceed to nationalize rent, it is important to explain how it arises in the first place. ...

[From: Land Question in Russia: Debate between Tolstoy and Stolypin, 21 April 1907]


Laveleye,
Emile de




ENLARGE

We occupy an island, on which we live by the fruits of our labor; a shipwrecked sailor is cast up on it; what is his right? May he ... say: ..."I, too, am a man; I, too, have a natural right to cultivate the soil. I may, therefore, on the same title as you, occupy a corner of the land to support myself by my labor?"

[From: Primitive Property, Chap. XXVII, p.351]


Lespinasse,
Paul de


It is a great pity that Henry George has not gotten more attention, and Adam Smith and Karl Marx and their fans less. George's ideas were not only ahead of his time, they are still ahead of our time.

[Professor of Political Science; author of Thinking About Politics]



Lincoln,
Abraham
(1809-1865)




ENLARGE

I respect the man who properly named these villains land sharks. They are like the wretched ghouls who follow a ship and fatten on its offal.

The land, the earth, God gave to man for his home, sustenance and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water -- if as much. An individual or company, or enterprise, acquiring land should hold no more than is required for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudent management of their legitimate business, and this much should not be permitted when it creates an exclusive monopoly. All that is not so used should be held for the free use of every family to make homesteads and to hold them so long as they are so occupied.

The idle talk of foolish men, that is so common now, will find its way against it, with whatever force it may possess, and as strongly promoted and carried on as it can be by land monopolists, grasping landlords and the titled and untitled senseless enemies of mankind everywhere.

On the other questions there is ample room for reform when the time comes; but now it would be folly to think we could take more than we have in hand. But when slavery is over and settled, men should never rest content while oppression, wrongs and iniquities are enforced against them.


[A letter written to a Mr. Gridley, of the firm of Davis, Lincoln and Gridley, Attorneys, Bloomington, IL. Reprinted from: Abraham Lincoln and the Men of His Time by Robert Browne.]


Locke,
John




ENLARGE

Locke, the philosopher of England's glorious revolution that peacefully removed a Catholic king from the throne in favor of a Dutch prince, William of Orange, understood the power of the landed interests in a society where nature was, for all practical purposes, fully controlled by a small, landed elite:

When the sacredness of property is talked of, it should be remembered that any such sacredness does not belong in the same degree to landed property.

Locke,
John


It is very clear that God, as King David says, "has given the earth to the children of men"; given it to mankind in common.

[From: Essay on Civil Government (1690), Sec. 25.]


Locke,
John


It is in vain in a Country whose great Fund is Land, to hope to lay the publick charge of the Government on any thing else; there at last it will terminate. The Merchant (do what you can) will not bear it, the Labourer cannot, and therefore the Landholder must: And whether he were best do it, by laying it directly, where it will at last settle, or by letting it come to him by the sinking of his Rents, which when they are once fallen every one knows are not easily raised again, let him consider.

[From: Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising the Value of Money]


Locke,
John


This I do boldly affirm, that the same rule of propriety, viz., that every man should have as much as he could make use of, would hold still in the world, without straitening anybody, since there is land enough in the world to suffice double the inhabitants, had not the invention of money and the tacit agreement of men to put a value on it, introduced (by consent) larger possessions and a right to them.

[From: On Civil Government (1690), Sec. 34]


Longfield,
Mountiford
(Justice)




Mountiford Longfield Longfiled was the first holder of the Whately Professorship of Political Economy at Trinity College Dublin. Although his Lectures attracted relatively little attention at the time of publication, they have since been recognized as containing contributions to economic theory of outstanding originality. Addressing the central themes of Classical Economics in his Lectures on Political Economy, Longfield is unusual amongst his contemporaries in having both a theory grasp of Ricardian theory, and an avaiable alternative. His Lectures on Commerce are notable for their contribution to trade theory.

Property in land differs in its origin from property in any commodity produced by human labor. The product of labor naturally belongs to the laborer who produced it. ...But the same argument does not apply to land, which is not the produce of labor, but is the gift of the Creator of the world to mankind. Every argument used to give an ethical foundation for the exclusive right to property in land has a latent fallacy.

[From: Cobden Club Essays, 1st Series, Part I, Chap. 10, p.72]


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