.




























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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MacArthur,
Douglas
(1880-1964)




ENLARGE

Inspired by Henry George's reform proposals, MacArthur saw to it that during his military governorship of Japan following the Second World War that land rent reform was incorporated in the writing of the Japanese Constitution. The new constitution reversed the portion of agricultural commodities collected as rent between owners (whose portion dropped to one-third of the total), and the tenants farmers who actually did the work (who were then able to retain two-thirds of what they produced).

James Michener, who served as MacArthur's economic adviser, repeated this theme in his novel, Hawaii:

No nation can avoid land reform. All it can do is determine the course it will take: bloody revolution or taxation.

MacDonell,
John


An offer is made of a mode of raising revenue, which takes from none what they have rightly earned, which need rob no one of what he has rightly bought, and which will replenish the Treasury, no man being mulcted, no man wronged; and are we to reject this offer and for ever allow so many private interests to gather round this public domain that it shall be useless and perverted? ...We vex the poor with indirect taxes, we squeeze the rich, we ransack heaven and earth to find new impost palatable or tolerable, and all the time these hardships are going on; neglected or misapplied, there have lain at our feet a multitude of resources ample enough for all just common wants, growing as they form Nature's budget. Such seems the rationale of the subject of which the land question forms a part. And so we may say that, if property in land be ever placed on a theoretically perfect basis, no private individual will be the recipient of economic rent.

[From: The Land Question,]


MacDonald,
Ramsay


"Our moral thoughts are usually cast ultimately into a theological form, and so the land reformer's case is generally opened by a statement like ' the land is God's common gift to all.' Cast in its severely economic form, however, the point is equally effective. Rent is a toll, not a payment for service. By it social values are transferred from social pools into private pockets, and it becomes the means of vast economic exploitation. . . .Rent is obviously a common resource. Differences of fertility and value of site must be equalised by rent, and it ought to go to common funds and be spent in the common interest"

[Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald, Socialism, Critical and Constructive, p.164]



"Our old Socialist argument that economic rent must be taken by the State, because it is created by circumstances of which the whole community is entitled to take advantage, has been enormously increased by the results and the experiences of the war. And it is fundamental."

[Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald, Socialism after the War, p.53]



MacDonell,
John


John Macdonell (1845-1921) served from 1901 to 1920 as professor of law at University College, London. He was also a distinguished jurist. The book, A Survey of Political Economy, based on a series of articles published in the Scotsman newspaper.

My apology for essaying, in these circumstances, such a task as is implied in the title "A Survey of Political Economy," rests on the possibility of this modest work turning attention to others more exhaustive, on the absence of any book conceived on the same plan, and on an intense desire ... to see political economy divested of many fallacies, not the less false because sometimes harsh and degrading.

[From: A Survey of Political Economy (1871), Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas]



An offer is made of a mode of raising revenue, which takes from none what they have rightly earned, which need rob no one of what he has rightly bought, and which will replenish the Treasury, no man being mulcted, no man wronged; and are we to reject this offer and for ever allow so many private interests to gather round this public domain that it shall be useless and perverted? ...We vex the poor with indirect taxes, we squeeze the rich, we ransack heaven and earth to find new impost palatable or tolerable, and all the time these hardships are going on; neglected or misapplied, there have lain at our feet a multitude of resources ample enough for all just common wants, growing as they form Nature's budget. Such seems the rationale of the subject of which the land question forms a part. And so we may say that, if property in land be ever placed on a theoretically perfect basis, no private individual will be the recipient of economic rent.

[From: The Land Question, (1873)]


Mann,
Thomas




ENLARGE

In 1886 I read Henry George's book, Progress and Poverty. This was a big event for me; it impressed me as by far the most valuable book I had so far read. It enabled me to see more clearly the vastness of the social problem, to realize that every country was confronted by it.

Henry George's cure for economic problems, as advocated in Progress and Poverty is the Singl Tax. I could not accept all George's claims on behalf of his proposal, though for lack of economic knowledge I was unable to refute these claims.

His book was a fine stimulus to me, full of incentive to noble endeavour, imparting much valuable information, throwing light on many questions of real importance, and giving me what I wanted -- a glorious hope for the future of humanity, a firm conviction that the social problem could and would be solved. I must again give a reminder that Socialism was known only to a few persons, and that no Socialist organization existed at that time.


[From: Memoirs, 1923]


Manning,
Henry E.
(Cardinal)




ENLARGE

There is a natural and divine law anterior and superior to all human and civil law, by which every people has a right to live of the fruits of the soil on which they are born and in which they are buried.

[From a Letter to Earl Grey (1868), Miscellanies, Vol.I, p.239]


Marmontel,
Jean-Francois




ENLARGE

The land is a solemn gift which nature has made to man; to be born then is for each of us a title of possession. The child has no better birthright to the breast of its mother.

[From: Address in Favor of the Peasants of the North (1757), Euvres, Vol. X, p.56.]


Marmontel,
Jean-Francois


Hence those immense landed estates which luxury condemns to barrenness and which for the gratification of one man deprive a population of existence who would otherwise be born to cultivate it.

[From: Address in Favor of the Peasants of the North (1757), Oeuvres, Vol. X, p. 68]


Marti,
Jose


Jose Marti, the hero of Cuban independence, described Henry George as:

...one of the most cogent and audacious thinkers, ...George's book was a revelation not only for the workers, but also for the intellectuals. Only Darwin, in the natural sciences, left an impression comparable to that of George in the social sciences. ...His devotion can be compared to the love of Nazareen, expressed in the language of our times. ...

Martineau,
Harriet




ENLARGE

Harriet Martineau, the daughter of a textile manufacturer from Norwich, was born in 1802. Following her education, she began writing articles in the 1820s for the Monthly Repository and in 1829 moved to London and joined the staff of this journal. She broadened her writing to include books on politics and economics directed to the general public. Among her influences were Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Her 1832 book, Illustrations of Political Economy sold well, which was followed by Poor Laws and Paupers Illustrated (1834).

Martineau then visited the United States for two years, recorded her observations in the book, Society in America (1837), which commented on the many contradictions between stated democratic principles and the reality of life for many Americans, particularly women.

She suffered from poor health throughout much of her life and died of bronchitis in 1876.

The old practice of man holding man as property is nearly exploded among civilized nations; and the analogous barbarism of man holding the surface of the globe as property cannot long survive. The idea of this being a barbarism is now fairly formed, admitted and established among some of the best minds of the time; and the result is, as in all such cases, ultimately secure.

[From: Autobiography (1855), Vol.II, Sec. 10, p. 119]


Martineau,
Harriet




Before any effectual social renovation can take place, men must efface the abuse which has grown up out of the transition from the feudal to the more modern state; the abuse of land being held as absolute property.

[From: Autobiography (1855), Vol.II, Sec. 10, p. 119]


Marx,
Karl




ENLARGE

Monopoly of land is the basis of monopoly in capital.

Marx,
Karl


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 policy, 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 production.

[From: Capital, Chap. XXXIII, English Translation, pp. 793-4]


McArdle,
Peter J.


Peter J. McArdle (1874-1940) was first elected to Pittsburgh City Council in 1911; he served for over 27 years. He was a member of the City Planning Commission. Previous to public office he had worked in a rolling mill and was active in union councils within the steel industry.

The graded tax law has, in my opinion, been of decided benefit to the City, and to home owners in particular, by furnishing an added impetus to the development of vacant land located within the city limits.

[Source of the above quote is not known. Reprinted from literature published by the Henry George Foundation of America]


McConnell,
Campbell




ENLARGE

In the cities the present arrangement of relatively high property taxes on buildings and relatively low taxes on land tends to have perverse effects upon incentives. The relatively light taxes on land mean that landowners find the tax costs involved in holding vacant land ot be comparatively small, and so they are encouraged to withhold land form productive uses in order to speculate on increases in its value. Such action -- or inaction -- prevents growth of the property-tax base and contributes to the fiscal problems of the cities.

[Quote from the textbook, Economics, 1978 edition, p.754]


McGinnis,
Bernard B.


As a young man active in Democratic politics and civic movements, I joined in a popular movement in 1913 which resulted in the Legislature adopting a Graded Tax for cities of the second class. It was a very simple measure endorsed by leading civic organizations and newspapers and sponsored politically by William A. Magee, then the Republican Mayor of Pittsburgh.

Since 1925 the cities of Pittsburgh and Scranton have taxed all dwellings and other buildings at just one-half of the rate levied on the land; the purpose being to encourage private improvements to real estate and to discourage the holding of valuable land for speculation.

This Graded Tax plan is generally accepted in Pittsburgh and has meant lower taxes for the great majority of home owners as well as for others whose properties are well improved. It has been strongly supported through the years by our Mayors and Councilmen, both Republican and Democratic. It is also helping Scranton to attract new industries and to lower taxes on homes.


[Pennsylvania State Senator, 1959]


McGlynn,
Edward (Father)




ENLARGE

He was simply a seer, a prophet, a forerunner sent by God, and we can say in all reverence and in the words of the Scriptures when they said that "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John he was sent to bear witness to the light." I believe I am not guilty of any profanation of the sacred Scriptures when I say there was a man sent from God, and his name was Henry George.

[source not known]


Michener,
James




ENLARGE

No nation can avoid land reform. All it can do is to determine the course it will take: bloody revolution or taxation.

Mill,
James




ENLARGE

James Mill discussed land taxation much more fully than did Adam Smith or Ricardo. In his Political Economy, 1821, he suggested [p. 243] that in a new country the rent of land would be a source peculiarly adapted to defray the expenditures of the state without burdening anyone. But in old countries:

... where land has ... been converted into private property, without making rent in a peculiar manner answerable for the public expenses; where it has been bought and sold upon such terms, and the expectations of individuals have been adjusted to that order of things, rent of land could not be taken to supply exclusively the wants of the government without injustice.

James Mill's Political Economy is noteworthy in that it contains the earliest thorough consideration of the merits of a tax upon the "unearned increment" of land values. Much of the credit should be given to James Mill rather than, as is usual, to his more distinguished son. James Mill wrote in Political Economy [p.247]:

This continual increase, arising from the circumstances of the community, and from nothing in which the land-holders themselves have any peculiar share, does seem a fund no less peculiarly fitted for appropriation to the purposes of the state, than the whole of the rent in a country where land had never been appropriated.

Mill,
John Stuart




ENLARGE

John Stuart Mill, in his Political Economy, 1848, took the position that land ownership is less justifiable than the ownership of other wealth. "Landed property," he said, "is felt, even by those most tenacious of its rights, to be a different thing from other property."

When the sacredness of property is talked of, it should always be remembered that any such sacredness doe snot belong in the same degree to landed property. No man made the land. It is the original inheritance of the whole species. Its appropriation is wholly a question of general expediency. When private property in land is not expedient, it is unjust. It is no hardship to anyone to be excluded from what others have produced: they were not bound to produce it for his use, and he loses nothing by not sharing in what otherwise would not have existed at all. But it is some hardship to be born into the world and to find all nature's gifts previously engrossed, and no place left for the new-comer. [book 2, ch. 2, sec. 6.]

Landlords grow rich in their sleep without working, risking or economizing. The increase in the value of land, arising as it does from the efforts of an entire community, should belong to the community and not to the individual who might hold title. [Book 5, Ch. 2, Sec. 5]

Mill,
John Stuart


Those who think that the land of a country exists for the sake of a few thousand land-owners, and that so long as rents are paid, society and government have fulfilled their function, may see in this consummation a happy end to Irish difficulties. But this is not a time, nor is the human mind now in a condition, in which such insolent pretensions can be maintained. The land of Ireland, the land of every country, belongs to the people of that country.

[From: Political Economy, Book II., Chap. 10, Sec. 1]


Mill,
John Stuart


A tax on rent falls wholly on the landlord. There are no means by which he can shift the burden upon anyone else.

[From: Elements of Political Economy, Book V, Chap. III, Sec. 2]


Mill,
John Stuart


The essential principle of property being to assure to all persons what they have produced by their labor and accumulated by their abstinence, this principle cannot apply to what is not the product of labor, the raw material of the earth.

[From: Political Economy, Book II, Chap. 2, Sec. 5]


Mill,
John Stuart


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

[From: Political Economy, Book II, Chap. 2, Sec. 6]


Mill,
John Stuart


The greatest "burthen on land is the landlords."

[From: Elements of Political Economy, Book II, Chap. 2, Sec. 6]


Mill,
John Stuart


The social problem of the future we consider to be how to unite the greatest individual liberty of action with a common ownership in the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all in the benefits of combined labor.

[From: Autobiography, Chap. VII, p.232]



Mill,
John Stuart


The ordinary progress of a society which increases in wealth is at all times to augment the incomes of landlords -- to give them both a greater amount and a greater proportion of the wealth of the community, independently of any trouble or outlay incurred by themselves. They grow richer as it were in their sleep, without working, risking or economizing. What claims have they, on the general principlesof social justice, to this accession of riches?

[From: Principles of Political Economy, Book V, Chap. 2, Sec. 5]


Miller,
Karen


Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, responded to a question from Walter Rybeck about whether her Housing Task Force had looked at the two-rate property tax, as follows:

No, because the eleven cities using that form of property tax don't have an affordable housing problem.

Mitchell,
Margaret




ENLARGE


Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for 'Tis the only thing in this world that lasts, 'Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for -- worth dying for.

Modigliani,
Franco




ENLARGE

It is important that rent of land be retained as a source of government revenue. Some persons who could make excellent use of land would be unable to raise money for the purchase price. Collecting rent annually provides access to land for persons with limited access to credit.

[Franco (1918-1985) was the 1985 winner of the Nobel Prize for economics]


Moley,
Raymond




ENLARGE

Private investment for urban rebuilding can be attracted by modifying our tax system to encourage new construction and better land use. High land taxes and lower levies on improvements will compel owners to build or sell to those who will build. To a greater extent this emphasis on a change to land taxation is being accepted by planners, architects, public authorities and economists.

The point is not a new one. Those who improve their property are now penalized by higher taxes. Those who maintan slums are rewarded by a rise in land values.


[From: Newsweek, August 21, 1967]


Mondale,
Walter




ENLARGE

As you know, land is subject to local rather than federal jurisdiction, but it would be interesting to see the results of local experiments along the lines you suggest. One of the great advantages of our federal system is that it permits such experiments to take place.

There are, however, a number of things which the federal government could do to further the taxation of land values. It could levy such a federal tax itself and this would be much preferable to taxes on labor and capital investment. It could establish a new city based solely on land value taxation in order to demonstrate the feasibility of that principle. It could remove the income tax deduction for the property tax insofar as it falls on buildings, thereby encouraging localities to raise more of their property tax on land instead. And finally, it could so adjust the revenue sharing formula that the more a city relies on the taxation of land values for its local revenue, the larger its federal revenue share would be.


[From a letter dated May 19, 1983 to the editor of Incentive Taxation]


Moore,
Stephen




ENLARGE

I have long been an admirer of the Henry George philosophy, as I think most of us here at the Cato Institute are.

[199-]


More,
Thomas




ENLARGE

When an insatiable wretch, who is a plague to the whole country, resolves to enclose many thousand acres of ground the owners as well as the tenants are turned out of their possessions by trick or by main force, or being wearied out with ill usage they are forced to sell them.

[From: Utopia (1516), Book I]


More,
Thomas


"The increase of pasture", said I, "by which you sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men, and unpeople, not only villages, but towns; for wherever it is found that the sheep of any soil yield a softer and richer wool than ordinary, there the nobility and gentry, and even those holy men the abbots, not contented with the old rents which their farms yielded, nor thinking it enough that they, living at their ease, do not good to the public, resolve to doit hurt instead of good. They stop the course of agriculture, destroying houses and towns, reserving only the churches, and enclose grounds that they may lodge their sheep in them.

As if forests and parks had swallowed up to little of the land, those worthy countrymen turn the best inhabited places in solitudes, for when an insatiable wretch, who is a plague to his country, resolves to enclose many thousand acres of ground, the owners as well as tenants are turned out of their possessions, by tricks, or by main force, or being wearied out with ill-usage, they are forced to sell them. By which means those miserable people, both men and women, married and unmarried, old and young, with their poor but numerous families (since country busines requires many hands), are all forced to change their seats, not knowing whither they go; and they must sell almost for nothing their household stuff, which could not bring them much money, even though they might stay for a buyer.

When that little money is at an end, for it will be soon spent, what is left for them to do, but either to steal and so to be hanged (God knows how justly), or to go about and beg? And if they do this, they are put in prison as idle vagabonds; while they would willingly work, but can find none that will hire them; for there is no more occasion for country labor, to which they have been bred, when there is no arable ground left. One shepherd can look after a flock which will stock an extent of ground that would require many hands if it were to be ploughed and reaped. This likewise in many places raises the price of corn.


[From: Utopia (1516), Book 1]


More,
Thomas




There is a great number of noblemen among you, that are themselves as idle as drones, tht subsist on other men's labor, on the labor of their tenants, whom, to raise their revenues, they pare to the quick.

[From: Utopia (1516), Book I]


More,
Thomas




For they account it a very just cause of wr for a nation to hinder others from possessing a part of the soil, of which they make no use, but which is suffered to lie idle and cultivated; since every man has by the law of Nature a right to such waste portion of the earth as is necessary for his subsistence.

[From: Utopia (1516), Book II, tit. Of Their Traffic]


Morley,
John




ENLARGE

It will be thought an intolerable thing that men shall derive enormous increments of income from the growth of towns to which they have contributed nothing -- that they shall be able to sweep into their coffers what they have not produced -- that they shall be able to go on throttling towns, as they are well known to do in some cases. It is impossible to suppose that the system will not be vigorously, powerfully, persistently and successfully attacked.

[From a speech at Forfar, 4 October, 1897. Reprinted in The Times, 5 October, 1897, p.5, column 3]


Morris,
William
(1834-1896)




ENLARGE

Toward the end of the 1870s, Morris became increasingly involved in political activism, and by 1883 he had joined H. M. Hyndman's Socialist League. Rejecting Hyndman's grand plan to unify all socialist groups in England, Morris helped form the new Socialist League and became the editor of its journal. When the Socialist League waxed more extreme and the prospects for real revolution grew dim, Morris left the organization and founded the Hammersmith Socialist Society, which met at Kelmscott House and served as a forum for Sunday evening lectures and discussion on political and social issues.

Not seldom a piece of barren ground or swamp, worth nothing in itself, becomes a source of huge fortune to him from the development of a town or a district, and he pockets the results of the labor of thousands upon thousands of men, and calls it his property.

[From: Signs of Change (1888), p.188]


Morris,
William




Society will be changed from its basis when we make the form of robbery called profit impossible by giving labor full and free access to the means of fructification -- i.e., to raw material.

[From: Signs of Change (1888), p.201]


Moses


It is written in Leviticus X MV:XXIII that Jehovah said to Moses:

The land shall not be sold forever; for the land is mine.

Murphey, Dwight D.




ENLARGE

Do Market Economies Allocate Resources Optimally? A response by Dweight D. Murphey, Prof. of Business Law, Wichita State University, to Walter Block:

Nor are such societies sufficiently sensitive to the moral issues. An inequality borne out of differences in ability, effort, character, market discernment, and the like, is a morally justifiable inequality. But, as henry George pointed out a century ago, some wealth accrues to individuals without any relationship either to merit or to a productive meeting of consumers' needs. George made this point with regard to the increase in land values that comes from increasing population near the land. During the past century, most classical liberals, including myself until recently, have not become followers of George (who was in all other ways a devout free-market thinker) because it has seemed better to let the market work without qualification than to make an admission that socialists could use to their own advantage. Now, however, with the rapid advance of computerization, robotics, materials sciences, and biotechnology, Henry George's observation becomes even more pertinent. Those in the year 2030, for example, who make a fortune as computer experts will make only a part of that income from their own effort; instead, they will have inherited from the civilization in which they live the work of countless geniuses who will have preceded them, and much of their income will be due to those previous successes. How appropriate will it be then to say that "any amount of inequality is all right, because it arises out of the successful peoples' success in the market"? Will future classical liberals be able to say that with a clear conscience if billions of people are faring quite badly?

[From: Markets & Morality, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall 1999]


Murphy,
Dennis


If you improve your home by remodeling or building an addition, your taxes will rise, because we tax the improvements. If you own a rental property, and make improvements for your tenants, the taxes will increase, regardless of location. Tax only the land and tax it at a rate appropriate to its highest and best use.

The results would be dramatic.

Would the old Flame Tavern sit empty year after year? Or would ordinary economic incentives push the owners -- whom, by the way, I do not know -- to either make better use of the opportunities presented by these sites or sell to willing buyers who would?


[Dean of the College of Business & Economics, Western Washington University. Quote from the Bellingham Washington Herald, June 2, 1966]


Murray,
J.F.N.


Murray is a prominent assessor and author of Principles and Practice of Valuation, (Sidney. Commonwealth Institute of Valuers, Fourth Edition, 1969, a leading textbook on appraising in Australia.

Valuation is the most important subject in the social sciences, but it has always been outside the scope of economics as taught in the universities. ...It is maintained that a re-integration of the theory of valuation with the main body of economic theory would lead to an advancement of learning and to a soundly-based national economy.

[source not identified, only in 1967, from an academic publication]


Muskie,
Edmund




ENLARGE

We must ask whether it is fair that our federal tax laws -- which mermit homeowners to deduct property tax payments from their income tax -- provide no real relief for apartment dwellers whose rent is increased by their landlords as a result of these same property taxes.

Still a more basic question is whether any property taxes should be levied against buildings and improvements (or) whether they should be levied completely or primarily on land value itself. [There is a good argument that it is] socially undesirable [to tax the land speculator less than the owner who improves his proerty, that urban decay can be blamed on property taxes which penalize properties, and that property taxes encourage land speculation rather than logical land development].


[Source: Hugh I. Morris. "Muskie Weighs Probe Of Property Taxes," The Evening Bulletin, 8 January 1971.]


Nader,
Ralph




ENLARGE

Nader's group Public Citizen wrote a booklet recommending:

We reduce taxes on people and increase taxes on nonrenewables.

A 1994 commentary on urban sprawl contained this observation about the property tax:

Site-value property taxation may also spark greater development in cities by taxing land, not buildings. Unlike traditional taxation -- which rewards developers who put up cheap, tacky housing and strip malls -- site-value taxation gives developers the incentive to build gracious, durable buildings. Allowances for affordable housing, however, need to be part of site-value schemes.

Nader, Ralph


We need a big debate on different kinds of taxation, to talk about how corporations are freeloading on public services and getting tax breaks while taxes are falling on workers and smaller businesses. We need to open a debate about land taxation and Henry George, to tax bad things, not good things, and not to tax people who go to work every day.

Nechyba,
Thomas J.




ENLARGE

The idea tht land value taxation is unrealistic or would drive land prices into negative numbers is based on a static view of the economy, where no one responds to tax changes by substituting one factor for another. Once you accept that behavior will change in response to taxes, that static view no longer applies. Under these fairly conservative assumptions, tax reforms that use land taxes to eliminate entire classes of distortionary taxes are economically feasible in virtually all states.

[From a "Faculty Profile" interview published in Land Lines, the newsletter of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, January 2002. Mr. Nechyba is professor of economics at Duke University, Durham, N.C.]


Necker,
Jacques




ENLARGE

Nearly all civil institutions were made for the benefit of the rich. If we peruse our books of law, we are startled at finding everywhere the confirmation of teh fact. It could almost be said that a few people, after dividing the earth among themselves, ordained laws to fortify themselves against the multitude.

[From: Essay on the Corn-Laws (1775), Part III, Chap. 12, Oeuvres, Vol. I, p. 333]


Necker,
Jacques



The right of inheriting property is a law of men; it was established for their welfare and can only be continued on that condition. He who, at the beginning of society, staked out a piece of ground, and threw there some seed which nature had spontaneously produced elsewhere, could never have obtained on this title alone the exclusive right of holding the ground for his descendants forever.

[From: Essay on the Corn Laws (1775), Oeuvres Completes, Vol.I, p.142]


New Republic editors


As Henry George explained more than a century ago in Progress and Poverty, the cost of natural resources is nothing more than a tax on the productive elements of the economy -- labor and capital.

Newcomb,
Simon
(1835-1909)




ENLARGE
The doctrine that the soil is of natural right the common property of the human race, and that each individual should be allowed to enjoy his share, is now tacitly admitted by many eminent economists in England and France.

[From: "The Labor Question," North American Review, July, 1879, p.151]


Newman,
Francis William




Newman was born in Born in London, and graduated from Oxford in 1826. He was elected fellow of Balliol College Oxford in the same year but resigned in 1830, leaving for Baghdad to serve as assistant in the mission of the Rev. A. N. Groves. In 1833 he returned to England and eventually accepted the position of classical tutor in an unsectarian college at Bristol. In 1840 he became Professor of Latin in Manchester New College, a Unitarian seminary at York. In 1846 he quit this appointment to become professor in University College, London, where he remained until 1869. In 1850, he produced ttwo works, Phases of Faith and Passages from the History of my Creed, the former an analysis of the relations of the spirit of man with the Creator; the latter a religious autobiography detailing the author's passage from Calvinism to pure theism.

He also wrote on logic, political economy, English reforms, Austrian politics, Roman history, and many other subjects. His miscellaneous essays were collected in several volumes before his death. He died in 1897.

Here is the fundamental error, the crude and monstrous assumption, that the land which God has given to our nation, is or can be the private property of anyone. It is a usurpation exactly similar to that of slavery.

[From: Lectures on Political Economy (1851), Lecture VI., p. 133]


Netzer,
Dick




ENLARGE

My ideal system of local finance would comprise user charges and land value taxation.

[Dean, Graduate School of Political Science, New York University; quote from Property Tax Reform, Urban Institute, 1973, edited by George Peterson]


Netzer,
Dick


User fees and land-value taxation are considered by most experts as the best way to finance city government.

[Dean, New York University; from remarks at a 1982 meeting of the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia]


NEW YORK TIMES


Too bad that Henry George, the author of Progress and Poverty, is not around to advise New York State's Comptroller, Edward Regan, on the economics of land and housing. Analyzing New York City's J-51 program to stimulate the rehabilitation of old buildings with tax concessions. Mr. Regan says it costs a fortune, or at least too much. Henry George would have told Mr. Regan that he has it exactly wrong. It's the tax on building improvements, not the tax abatement, that leads to poverty.

[editorial, August 5, 1980]

Norquist,
John




ENLARGE

Question and Answer with Mayor John Norquist of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tuesday, January 26, 1999, at The Landmark Series:

Q: Have you looked at alternative property tax systems such as a two-tier land value based system to encourage efficient use?

A: Great idea and almost impossible to get politically. Usually the constitutions in most states block it but it's been great for Pittsburgh. You almost can't find an empty lot in downtown Pittsburgh.They've done a lot of things wrong in Pittsburgh but one thing they did right was having this land value taxation so there's no incentive to have an empty lot. Having a parking lot doesn't make sense economically so the buildings fill in and you don't have these big empty spots. So if you can do it in Minnesota, go for it. It's good for the city.

Norris,
Kathleen


Any one who really fears a revolution in America ought to reread Henry George's "Progress and Poverty," one of the great social documents of all time. I first read it thirty years ago. ...Today the book is good as ever, and the theory as sane. ... In all the years -- with the travel, study, opportunity for observation of social conditions -- in all these yers I have never known his premises to be shaken in the least.

Nowak,
Jeremy




ENLARGE

"Cities should abolish all business taxes that inhibit the location of startup firms or discourage investment in productivity-enhancing equipment or practices, including all forms of gross receipts or turnover and net profits taxes. Cities should also replace the business property tax with a tax on the market value of land, coupling the land tax with the broader use of business improvement districts or tax increment finance districts to pay for major infrastructure investments. Land taxes, which may initially be extraordinarily low, even zero, in some especially distressed neighborhoods, have several advantages over property taxes in keeping a city's economy competitive. They discourage speculative land banking. They encourage businesses to place as much capital on property as is economically justifiable because non-land forms of real property are not taxed. They strongly encourage city government practices that preserve the value of land. And, finally, they are a powerful incentive to maintain properties.

"Local personal taxes commonly take three forms: sales taxes, wage or income taxes, and property taxes, the latter being the most common. A residential property tax has two components-a land tax and a tax on the value of the structure. The land component of the residential property tax should be assessed on an equal basis with the business land tax, again providing incentives to develop in neighborhoods with low land values, as well as preventing speculative land banking."


[From: "Only Radical Strategies Can Help America's Most Distressed Cities," by Edward W. Hill and Jeremy Nowak. Brookings Review, Summer 2000, Vol.18, No.3, Pages 22-26]


Oates,
Wallace




ENLARGE

What the Pittsburgh experience suggests to us is that the movement to a graded tax system can, in the right setting, provide some stimulus to local building activity. The primary role of the land tax in all this is to provide the additional source of revenues that allows a reduction in the rate on improvements.

[Professor of Economics, University of Maryland; from a research report written with Robert Schwab]


Ogilvie,
William


William Ogilvie, Professor of Humanities in King's College, Aberdeen, was an eighteenth century thinker who anticipated certain of Henry George's ideas. In 1782 he published anonomously An Essay on the Right of Property in Land with respect to its Foundation in the Law of Nature. He believed that the equal right of all men to the earth was "a birthright which every citizen still retains", and as a means for securing that right he proposed a "progressive agrarian law", under which men were to be permitted to claim their birthright share from unoccupied lands, and those holding more than this share were gradually to be deprived of their surplus of land, retaining, however, the title to any improvements which they might have made.

Ogilvie's ideas on taxation were somewhat vague, but he wrote in a footnote that he believed a land tax to be the most equitable form of tax. The landowner, he believed, enjoyed a revenue without performing a corresponding social service. He suggested a tax on barren lands to force the owner either to cultivate or dispose of them. Ogilvie was probably the first to suggest definitely a tax on the increment of land values. He wrote:

A tax on all augmentation of rents, even to the extent of one half of the increase, would be at once the most equitable, the most productive, the most easily collected, and the least liable to evasion of all possible taxes, and might with inconceivable advantage disencumber a great nation from all those injudicious imposts by which its commercial exchanges are retarded and restrained, and its domestic manufactures embarrassed.[p.9]

Ogilivie also wrote about access to land as a natural right:

When a child is born, we recognise that it has a natural right to its mother's milk, and no one can deny that it has the same right to mother-earth. It is really its mother-earth, plus the dew and sunshine from heaven and a little labour, that supplies the milk and everything else required for its subsistence. The monster that would deprive the babe of its mother's milk, or would monopolise the breasts of several mothers, to the exclusion of several children, is not more deserving of being destroyed than the monster who seizes absolute possession of more than his share of the common mother of mankind, to the exclusion of his fellow-creatures.

[From the Preface to William Ogilvie's "Birthright in Land" (1782), Augustus M Kelley edition (1970), p.xix]


Ogilvie,
William


Ogilvie begins his "Essay on the Right of Property in Land" with the following:

1. "All right of property is founded either in occupancy or labor. The earth having been given to mankind in common occupancy, each individual seems to have by nature a right to possess and cultivate an equal share. This right is little different from that which he has to the freeuse of the open air and running water; thought not so indispensably requisite at short intervals for his actual existence, it is not less essential to the welfare and right state of his life through all of its progressive stages.

2. "No individual can derive from this general of occupancy a title to any more than any equal share of the soil of his country. His actual possession of more cannot of right preclude the claim of any other person who is not already possessed of such equal share.

3. "This title to an equal shre of property in land seems original, inherent, and indefeasible by any act or determination of others, though capable of being alienated by our own. It is a birthright which every citizen still retains. Though by entering into society and partaking of its advantages, he must be supposed to have submitted this natural right to such regulations as may be established for the general good, yet he can never be understood to have tacitly renounced it altogether; --

4. "Every state or community ought in justice to reserve for all its citizens the opportunities of entering upon or returning to land resuming this their birthright and natural employment, whenever they are inclined to do so.

"Whatever inconveniences may -- accompany this reservation, they ought not to stand in the way of essential justice.

5. "In many rude communities, this original right has been respected, and their pubilc institutions accommodated to it, by annual, or at least frequent partitions of the soil, as among the ancient Germans, and among the native Irish even in Spencer's time.

"Wherever conquests have taken place, this right has been commonly subverted and effaced.

"In the progress of commercial arts and refinements, it is suffered to fall into obscurity and neglect.

7. "That right which the landholder has to an estate, consisting of a thousand times his own original equal share of the soil, cannot be founded in the general right of occupancy, but in the labor which he and those to whom he has succeeded, or from whom he has purchased, have bestowed on the improvement and fertilization of the soil. To this extent, it is natural and just; but such a right founded in labor cannot supersede that natural right of occupancy, which nine hundred and ninety-nine other persons have to their equal shares of the soil, in its original state ..."

9. "On the first of these maxims depend the freedom and prosperity of the lower ranks. On the second, the perfection of the art of agriculture."


Ogilvie,
William


The earth having been given to mankind in common occupancy, each individual seems to have by nature a right to possess and cultivate an equal share.

[From: Essay on the Right of Property in Land (1781), Part I, Section I]


Ogilvie,
William


Internal convulsions have arisen in many countries by which the decisive power of the State has been thrown, for a short while at least, into the hands of the collective power of the people. In these junctures they might have obtained a just re-establishment of their natural rights to independence of cultivation and to property in land, had they been themselves aware of their title to such rights, and had there been any leaders prepared ot direct them in the mode of stating their just claim, and supporting it with necessary firmness and becoming moderation.

[From: Essay on the Right of Property in Land (1781), Part II, Section 3, Paragraph 57]


O'Rell,
Max




ENLARGE

I hold that the earth was meant for the human race and not for a few privileged ones.

[From: North American Review, January, 1899, p.36]


Paine,
Thomas
(1737-1809)




ENLARGE

In the age of rebellion against monarchy and landed aristocracy, Paine brought his ideas from the Old World to North America. He wrote the pamphlet Common Sense which helped to ignite the spirit of rebellion in the colonial citizens of England's colonies. In a later pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, he wrote:

[I]t is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes the community a ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue. ...The plan I have to propose ... is, To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one yers ... a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of landed property ...

Men did not make the earth, and though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.


"The earth, in its natural state … is supporting but a small number of inhabitants, compared with shat it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that inseparable connection; but it is nevertheless true that it is value of the improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated land owes to the community a ground-rent, for I know no better term to express the idea by, for the land which he holds. …Cultivation is one of the greatest natural improvements ever made. . . .But the landed monopoly that began with it has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance." [Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, 1797]


Paley,
William
(Archdeacon of Carlisle)




ENLARGE

If you should see a flock of pigeons in a field of corn, and if (instead of each picking where and what he liked, taking just as much as it wanted and no more) you should be ninety-nine of them gathering all they got into a heap and reserving nothing for themselves but the chaff and refuse; keeping this heap for one, and that the weakest, perhaps worst, pigeon of the flock; sitting round and looking on all the winter whilst this one was devouring, throwing about and wasting it; and if a pigeon more hardy or hungry than the rest touched a grain of the hoard, all the others instantly flying upon it and tearingit to pieces -- if you should see this you would see nothing more than what is every day practiced and established among men.

[From: Moral and Political Philosophy (1785), Book III, Part I., Chap. 1]


Paley,
William




We now speak of property in land; and there is a difficulty in explaining the origin of this property consistently with the law of nature; for the land was once, no doubt, common; and the question is, how any particular part of it oculd justly be taken out of the common and so approprirated to the first owner as to give him a better right to it than others; and what is more, a right to exclude others from it. Moralists have given many different accounts of this matter, which diversity alone, perhaps, is a proof that none of them are satisfactory.

[From: Moral and Political Philosophy (1785), Book III, Part I, Chap. 4]


Penn,
William
(1644-1718)




ENLARGE

One of the first to recognize the promise of ground rents as a just source of public revenue was William Penn, the founder of the North American colony of Pennsylvania. Penn wrote in 1682:

If all men were so far tenants to the public that the superfluities of grain and expense (meaning "surpluses") were applied to the exigencies thereto (meaning "community needs"), it would put an end to taxes, leave not a beggar, and make the greatest bank for national trade in Europe.>

[From: Reflections and Maxims, Sec. 222, Works V., pp. 190-1]


PENNSYLVANIA
ECONOMY
LEAGUE


From a 1988 study, Revised Recovery Plan for the City of Clairton, Pa:

... attaching different millage rates to land and buildings will accomplish a more equitable distribution of the property tax.

Pettigrew,
R.F.




ENLARGE

From a letter written 19, July, 1917 printed in Everyman (October 1917) by R.F. Pettigrew, former U.S. Senator from the state of South Dakota:

Tax reform has been tried since the days of Ham Arabbie who announced it in a code of laws of Babylon 2300 years before Christ. But the Single Tax (another name for free land) is of more recent origin and thereis but one form of it.


Phelps,
William Lyon


I am delighted to have the Anniversay edition of "Progress and Poverty." When I was an undergraduate in college, in the year 1998, Professor Arthur Hadley, later President Hadley, devoted an entire course in my senior year to this book.


Plato




ENLARGE

When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different ways; the iron and brass fell to acquiring mney and land and huses and gold and silver; but the gold and silver races, having the true riches in their own nature, inclined towards virtue and the ancient order of things. There was a battle between them, and at last they agreed to distribute their land and houses among individual owners; and they enslaved their friends and maintainers, whom they had formerly protected.

[From: The Republic, Jowett's Translation, Book VIII., p.547 (words ascribed to Socrates)]


Pliny
(Gaius Plinus Secundus)


It is the wide-spread domains that have been the ruin of Italy, and soonwill be that of the provinces as well.

[From: Natural History, Book XVIII., Chap. 7]


Plutarch




ENLARGE

To the end therefore that he might expel out of the state arrogance and envy, luxury and crime, and those yet more inveterate diseases of want and superfluity, he obtained of them to renounce their properties, and to consent to a new division of the land, and that they should live altogether on an equal footing, -- merit to be their only road to eminence, and the disgrace of evil, and credit of worthy acts, their one measure of difference as between man and man.

[From: Life of Lycurgus]


Plummer,
W.C.


In 1930, he held the position of Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelhia, Pennsylvania

While the right of property denotes in every state of society the largest powers of exclusive control over wealth which the law accords, yes, ... these powers of exclusive use and control are various and differ greeatly in different times and places. ...Private property ... in land has always ocupied a strong position in the United States, and continues to do so at the present time. ...

Taxes upon land are a distinct limitation of private property rights. Land possesses certain characteristics not found in other classes of wealth, and for this reason it has often been regarded as a subject for special taxes. ...The purpose of such taxes, if they are comparatively small, is to raise revenue for the support of the Government; but if they are very large, the predominating purpose is usually to bring about reforms in the social system.


[From: "Limitations to Private Property Rights in Land in the United States," The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. CXLVIII, No. 237, March, 1930, p.56]


Plummer,
W.C.


Since the publication of Progress and Poverty in 1879 by Henry George, in which he advocated what is known as the single tax, there have been numerous individuals and groups who would like to bring about radical changes in the socio-economic order by further limiting private property rights through heavier taxes on land. The advocates of the single tax contend that the Government should take in taxes the entire economic rent of land, and that this should be the only form of taxation. The use of the single tax would mean practically the abolition of private property in land and the substitution of community ownership. There would probably remain the right of private possession, of alienation, and of use for productive purposes, but the user of the land would be compelled ot pay to society, in the form of taxes, the full economic rent. ...Since the market value of land depends upon its present and anticipated future income, the introduction of the single tax would take from the present owners the equivalent of the entire value of their land.

[From: "Limitations to Private Property Rights in Land in the United States," The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. CXLVIII, No. 237, March, 1930, p.57]


Pollock,
Frederick
(1845-1937)




ENLARGE

Pollock was an English jurist, educated at Eton and Cambridge and admitted to the bar in 1871. He became professor of jurisprudence at Oxford in 1883, a position he retained until 1903. He devoted After 1914 he served as judge of the admiralty court of the Cinque Ports. His main writings included: The Principles of Contract (1876) and the Law of Torts (1887). Pollock also served as editor of the Law Quarterly Review from 1885 to 1919 and editor in chief (1895–1935) of the Law Reports from 1895 to 1935. He collaborated with F. W. Maitland on The History of English Law (1895), contributing the material on Anglo-Saxon law.

It is commonly supposed that land belongs to its owner in the same sense as money or a watch; this has not been the theory of the English law since the Norman Conquest, nor has it been so in its fullest significance at any time. No absolute ownership of land is recognized by our law-books except in the Crown. All lands are supposed to be held immediately or mediately of the Crown, though no rent or services may be payable and no grant from the Crown on record.

[From: Land Laws, Chap. I, p. 12]


Precy,
Monsieur V.


In 1930, this French advocate of land value taxation wrote:

"And so it is with the greatest satisfaction that I am able to quote here the pronouncement made by Robert Smillie, the English miners' leader, in October 1921: 'It is only lately that I have come to understand that the root of the whole social problem is to be found in the land question. As long as access to land remains forbidden to those who could put it to a useful purpose, we shall always see crowds of men, cap in hand, at the doors of our factories."

Pufendorf,
Samuel




ENLARGE

In prnciple I do not see why the sea should be dispensed from serving our need and comfort, any more than the land. However ... men were left free to make private property of the sea as well as of the land, or to leave it in its primitive state, common to all, so that it should not belong to one more than to another.

[From: Law of Nature and Nations (1672), Book IV, Chap. 5, Sec. 5]


Pufendorf,
Samuel




All that natural law does is to suggest the establishment of property when the welfare of human society demands it, leaving it to the wisdom of men to determine whether they should allow private property in all things or only in some, and whether they should hold those which they appropriate separately or in common, leaving the rest to the first occupant, so that no one can assume the right to enjoy them alone.

[From: Law of Nature and Nations (1672), Book IV, Chap. 4, Sec. 4]


Putland,
Gavin




ENLARGE

Gavin Putland, at the Signal Processing Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, wrote:

There is a better way to improve the competitiveness of a country's industries: reduce taxes that are passed on in prices and increase taxes that are not. The range of taxes that are built into prices is wider than is generally supposed. ...Taxes on land values, in contract, fall entirely on landowners and cannot be passed on in prices. Landowners cannot withdraw land from use in order to force users to pay the tax, because the withdrawn land generates no income to cover the tax. There is no surer way to make a country more competitive, thus protecting jobs in its industries, than to replace taxes on labour and capital with taxes on land values.

[From: a World Bank internet discussion, 19 March 2000]


Quesnay,
Francois



ENLARGE

Turgot,
A.R. Jacques



ENLARGE

During the late eighteenth century in France, the school of political economists known as the Physiocrats, which included the royal physician, Francois Quesnay and finance minister, A. R. Jacques Turgot , also recognized the power of collecting ground rent for public purposes. They expressed this thought and coined the phrase "impot unique" (i.e., "the single tax").

... the form of assessment which is the most simple, the most regular, the most profitable to the state, and the least burdensome to the tax-payers, is that which is made proportionate to and laid directly on the source of continually regenerated wealth (land).

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