.




























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

Reeb,
Donald


Professor of Political Science, State University of New York (Albany) Donald Reeb, in a research paper published in 1998 wrote [p.9]:

The two-rate or graded tax not only reduces the negative effects from taxation on buildings, it promotes the development of new buildings and jobs.

Ricardo,
David




ENLARGE

David Ricardo, whose theories of value and wages furnished the economic groundwork for Lasalle and Karl Marx, developed also the doctrine of rent which became the cardinal principle in the system of Henry George. It is one of the ironies of history that the theories of Ricardo, who was such a staunch exponent of the interests of the moneyed classes, should have been employed to justify radical attacks upon the economic interests of these classes.

"In a progressive country", argued Ricardo, ... "the landlord not only obtains a greater produce, but a larger share.". Hence, "the interest of the landlord is always opposed to the interest of every other class in the community. His situation is never so prosperous as when food is scarce and deal."

In Ricardo's Manual of Political Economy[p. 1xxx], he wrote:



Sustained by some of the greatest names -- I will say by every name of the rist rank in Political Economy from Turgot and Adam Smith to Mill -- I hold that the land of a country presents conditions which separate it economically from the great mass of the other objects of wealth.


Ricardo,
David


Rent is that portion of the produce of the earth which is paid to the landlord for the use of the original and indestructible powers of the soil.

[From: Principles of Political Economy, Chap. II]


Ricardo,
David


The interest of the landlord is always opposed to the interests of every other class in the community.

[source not researched]


Rogers,
James Edwin Thorold




ENLARGE

As a matter of fact, the owner contributes nothing to local taxation. Everything is heaped on the occupier. The land would be worthless without roads, and the occupier has to construct, widen and repair them. It could not be inhabited without proper drainage, and the occupier is constrained to construct and pay for the works which give an initial value to the ground rent, and, after the outlay, enhance it. It could not be occupied without a proper supply of water, and the cost of this supply is levied on the occupier also. In return for the enormous expenditure paid by the tenant for these permanent improvements, he has his rent raised on his improvements, and his taxes increased by them.

[From: Six Centuries of Work and Wages]


Rogers,
James Edwin Thorold


Every permanent improvement of the soil, every railroad and road, every bettering of the general condtion of society, every facility given for production, every stimulus supplied to consumption, raises rent. The landowner sleeps, but thrives. He along, among all the recipients in the distribution of products, owes everything to the labor of others, contributes nothing of his own. He inherits part of the fruits of present industry, and has appropriated the lion's share of accumulated intelligence.

[1870]


Rogers,
James Edwin Thorold


No human being need trouble himself about a landlord's rents, other to be sure than the landlord himself. The happiest state which the human race could conceive its such a mobility of labor and such an extension of the cultivable land and productive industry which man gives to cultivable land as to produce that plenty in which rent finds no place.

[From: Work and Wages, Chap. XVI, p. 456]


Rogers,
James Edwin Thorold


I can easily imagine a great proprietor of ground rents in the metropolis calling attention to the habitations of the poor, to the evils of overcrowding, and to the scandals which the inquiry reveals, while his own income is greatly increased by the causes which make house-rent dear in London, and decent lodging hardly obtainable by thousands of laborers.

[From: Work and Wages, Chap. XV, p. 550]


Roosevelt,
Franklin D.
(1882-1945)




ENLARGE

I believe that Henry George was one of the really great thinkers produced by our country. I do not go all the way with him, but I wish that his writings were better known and more clearly understood, for certainly they contain much that would be helpful today.

Roosevelt
Theodore
(1858-1919)




ENLARGE

Every person who invests in well-selected real estate in a growing section of a prosperous community adopts the surest and safest method of becoming independent, for real estate is the basis of wealth.

[Quoted in: William H. Ten Haken, in "Real Estate as a Marketable Commodity," The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. CXLVIII, No. 237, March, 1930, p.25]



The burden of taxation should be so shifted as to put the weight upon the unearned rise in the value of land itself, rather than improvements, the effect being to prevent the undue rise of rents.

[From: Century Magazine, October 1931]


Rousseau,
Jean Jacques
(1712-1778)




ENLARGE

Rousseau's observations concerning the State and the competing interests of classes within society led him to conclude:

You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to no one.

The following is from Rousseau's "Discussion on Inequality":

The first man, who after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, "This is mine" and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of Civil Society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many misfortunes and horrors would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches, should have cried to his fellow! Be sure not to listen to the imposter; you are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equitably to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."

[Jean Jacques Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Inequality Among Men (1755), Part II., p.1]


Ruskin,
John




ENLARGE

It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it, and why they should still possess it, more than you or I.

[From: Fors Clavigera, Vol. I, Letter 2]


Ruskin,
John




Bodies of men and women, then (and much more, as I have said before, their souls), must not be bought or sold. Neither must land, nor water, nor air, these things being the necessary sustenance of men's bodies and souls.

[From: Time and Tide, Sec. 150, p. 161]


Ruskin,
John




These principles the professor [Fawcett] goes on contentedly to investigate, never appearing to contemplate for an instant the possibility of the first principle of the whole business -- the maintenance, by force, of the possession of land obtained by force, being ever called in question by any human mind. It is nevertheless the nearest task of our day to discover how far original theft may be justly encountered by reactionary theft, or whether reactionary theft be indeed theft at all; and farther, what, excluding either original or corrective theft, are the just conditions of the possession of land.

[From: Munera Pulveris (1871), p.20]


Russell,
Bertrand
(1872-1970)




ENLARGE

Russell reached the same conclusions as Henry George had, writing:

The mere abolition of rent would not remove injustice, since it would confer a capricious advantage upon the occupiers of the best sites and the most fertile land. It is necessary that there should be rent, but it should be paid to the state or to some body which performs public services; or, if the total rental were more than is required for such purposes, it might be paid into a common fund and divided equally among the population.

Russell,
H. Earle


Most municipalities in the Transvaal tax land values only. City authorities and the people believe the land value tax is fairer than taxing both land and improvements. There is no tax on machinery or merchandise. This system has been in effect in Johannesburg since 1919. It did not cause any business disturbance when suddenly enacted and it has given general satisfaction... It undoubtedly has helped to replace old buildings with new ones in the more central locations.

[U.S. Consul General in the Union of South Africa]


Samuelson,
Paul




ENLARGE

Neo-Keynesian economist and Nobel Laureate, Paul Samuelson, has over several decades in his extensively-used textbook expanded on the subject of whether the income (i.e., cash flow) derived from controlling locations justly belongs to the individual or entity that happens to hold a title deed enforced by government. Here, in a not very direct fashion, he suggests that the just society requires that locations be leased by society rather than sold for private gain:

Our ideal society finds it essential to put a rent on land as a way of maximizing the total consumption available to the society. ...Pure land rent is in the nature of a "surplus" which can be taxed heavily without distorting production incentives or efficiency. A land value tax can be called "the useful tax on measured land surplus".

Samuelson,
Paul
and
Nordhaus,
William D.




ENLARGE

In the text Economics, 16th edition, p.250, the authors write:

The striking result is that a tax on rent will lead to no distortions or economic inefficiencies. Why not? Because a tax on pure economic rent does not change anyone's economic behavior. Demanders are unaffected because their price is unchanged. The behavior of suppliers is unaffected because the supply of land is fixed and cannot react. Hence, the economy operates after the tax exactly as it did before the tax--with no distortions or inefficiencies arising as a result of the land tax.

Savage,
Robert




In the 1870s ideas similar to those expressed by Henry George were being heard in Australia. When Henry George was editing the San Francisco Post, a copy of a tract written by Robert Savage, of the "Land Tenure Reform League of Victoria," came to his attention. He published an extract from it in an editorial in the Post, 16 April 1874. The author of the tract declared:

The allocation of the rents of the soil to the nation is the only possible means by which a just distribution of the created wealth can be effected.

Schreinter,
Olive
(1855-1920)




ENLARGE

The doctrine that land can become the private property of one is a doctrine morally repugnant to the Bantu. The idea which is to-day beginning to haunt Europe, that, as the one possible salve for our social wounds and diseases, it might be well if the land should become again the property of the nation at large, is no ideal to the Bantu, but a realistic actuality. He finds it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile his sense of justice with any other form of tenure.

[From: Stray Thoughts on South Africa, Fortnightly Review (July, 1896), p.6]


Schlesinger,
Arthur (Jr.)




ENLARGE

A letter written by Arthur Schlesinger, printed in the New York Times, March 27, 1994:

"In his fascinating article on America through Russian eyes ('Under Eastern Eyes: What America Meant to the Writers of Russia," Feb. 27), David Plante observes that there are 'very few' references to America in Tolstoy. Tolstoy reference Mr. Plante might have noted struck George Kennan with singular force when Mr. Kennan was Ambassador to Moscow.

Watching a dramatization of Tolstoy's 'Resurrection' at the Moscow Art theater, the American Ambassador was electrified to hear the leading man, looking straight at him, say, 'There is an American by the name of George, and with him we are all in agreement.' Was this a daring political gestue? Back at the embassy, Kennan took down Tolstoy's novel and found that the line referred to Henry George, the champion of the single tax on unearned increase in land values and an American much admired by Tolstoy."

Schopenhauer




ENLARGE

In the annals of natural history, after herb-eating animals had been evolved, it was not long before beasts of prey made their appearance, which lived on the flesh of their precursors. In like manner, after men have honestly reclaimed the soil necessary for the support of a people, by the sweat of their brows, others are sure to arrive on the stage, who, instead of making the soil productive and living on its produce, prefer to bring their own skins to market and stake life, health and freedom on the chanceof pouncing upon those who hold possessions which they have fairly earned, and of appropriating their fruits.

[From: Parerga and Paralipomena (1852 ), Vol.II, Sec. 125]



The difference between serfdom as in Russia, and landownership as in England, and particularly between the serf, and the tenant, occupier, mortgagor, etc., is more in form than in fact. Whether I own the peasant, or the land from which he must obtain his nourishment, the bird or its food, the fruit or the tree, is practically a matter of small importance.

[From: Parerga and Paralipomena (1852 ), Vol.II, Sec. 126]


Scott,
Walter




ENLARGE

To such a point have we been brought by an artificial system of society, that we must either deny altogether the right of the poor to their just proportion of the fruits of the earth, or afford them some means of subsistence out of them by the institution of positive law.

[From: St. Ronan's Well, Chap. XXXII, Note G]


Seattle, chief of the Dwamlsh




ENLARGE

In the mid-nineteenth century, the tribe of indigenous people called the Dwamlsh found themselves in the path of the European-American conquest of North America. Their chief, Seattle, attempted peaceful diplomacy with the President what was still a Union of sovereign states, the national government of which had declared geo-political control over the territory and peoples of much of North America. The letter was directed to Franklin Pierce:

How can you buy or sell the sky -- the warmth of the land? The idea Is strange to us... Every part of this earth is sacred to us.

Seneca




ENLARGE

From Epistles, XC (near the end):


What generation of men was ever happier? In common they enjoyed the gifts of nature; she sufficed like a mother to the support of all. ... To-day let avarice add field to field, let her drive ut her neighbors by purchase or by fraud, let her swell her estate to the size of a province, no extension of our boundaries will bring us back to the point we started from.

Seward,
William H.




ENLARGE

But there is a higher law than the constitution, which regulates out authority over the domain, and devotes it to the same noble purpose. The territory is a part of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon them by the Creator of the Universe.

[From a speech in the United States Senate, 11 March, 1850]


Shaw,
George Bernard
(1856-1950)




ENLARGE

Shaw, another in a long line of controvsial, reform-minded figures of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, described his introduction to Henry George and his ideas:

I went one night quite casually into a hall in London, and I heard a man deliver a speech which changed the whole current of my life. That man was an American -- Henry George... Well, Henry George put me on to the economic tack, and the tack of political science. Very shortly afterwards I read Karl Marx, and I read all the early political sciences of that time; but It was the American, Henry George, who started me. Therefore, as that happened at the beginning of my life, I have thought it fitting that now at the end of my life... I might come and give here In America back a little of that shove that Henry George gave to me.

Shaw,
George Bernard


"Finally I must insist that the crux of the land question is the classical theory of Economic Rent, dubbed by Lassalle the Iron Law of Wages. Like the roundness of the Earth, it is unfortunately not obvious. It is the pons asinorum of economic mathematics. Our politicians cannot draw their conclusions from it any more than Shakespeare could draw his from the okapi or the axolotl: they simply do not know of its existence. Karl Marx, by an absurd reference to it in 'Das Kapital', proved that he did not understand it. John Ruskin, after a very promising beginning as an economist by his contrast of exchange value swith human values, was stopped dead by it. Yet Marx and Ruskin had had more brains and keener interest in social questions than three or four million average voters. It is the rock on which Liberal Cobdenism has been broken and Socialism built in the struggle between plutocracy and democracy."

From the book, Everybody's Political What's What?, 1944, p.22:



Shim,
Ki R.




Land value taxation has various advantages: the decrease in land speculation, the acceleration of urban development, the financial independence of local governments, redressing the fiscal diparity between a central city and its suburbs, prevention of urban sprawl and more effective use of land, etc. According to the Urban Land Institute of Washington, D.C., the land value tax is the golden key to urban renewal to the automatic regeneration of the city -- and not at public expense.

[Professor of Economics, University of Pittsburgh, 1986]


Simon,
Herbert




ENLARGE

Assuming that a tax increase is necessary, it is clearly preferable to impose the additional cost on land by increasing the land tax, rather than to increase the wage tax ... It is the use and occupancy of property that creates the need for municipal services that appear as the largest item in the budget -- fire and police protection, waste removal, and public works. ..[1978]

Simonde de Sismondi,
Jean-Charles-Leonard




ENLARGE

In general, as soon as there is no more vacant land, the masters of the soil have a kind of monopoly against the rest of the world.

[From: New Principles of Political Economy (1820), Book III., Chap. 5, p. 202 (Second French Edition)]


Sismonde de Sismondi,
Jean-Charles-Leonard


As proprietors lastly, the whole soil of the cuntry belongs to them, and they have sometimes arrogated to themselves the right of dismissing the nation from her own abode.

[From: "Essay on Landed Property," Political Economy (1847), English Edition, p. 161]


Sismonde de Sismondi,
Jean-Charles-Leonard


Let the great (land) lords of England take care! ...If once they believe that they have no need of the people, the people may in their turn think that they have no need of them.

[From: "Essay on Landed Property," Political Economy (1847), English Edition, p. 189]


Sismonde de Sismondi,
Jean-Charles-Leonard


The nature of landed property, invariably limited, whatsoever may be the demand of the producers or consumers, gives it the power of a monopoly.

[From: "Essay on Landed Property," Political Economy (1847), p. 176]


Sismonde de Sismondi,
Jean-Charles-Leonard


Labor applied to land produces more than it has cost. The often debated question of this surplus is an idle question; its existence is a fact which is not contested.

[From: "Essay on Landed Property," Political Economy (1847), p. 175]


Sloniker,
William E.




The tax on buildings punishes all the people who improve their property by raising their taxes and rewards those who let their property deteriorate or sit vacant.

Taxing land along would remove the disincentive to private development and private renewal of our cities and towns.


[Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, 199-]


Smillie,
Robert




ENLARGE

Smillie was elected president of the Scottish Miners' Federation in 1894. Two years later he played an important role in the formation of the Scottish Trade Union Congress. His role was recognised when he was elected chairman at its first conference, a post he was to hold until 1899. When the First World War ended in 1918, Smillie was one of the first to call for the Labour Party to withdraw from Lloyd George's coalition government.

In 1919 Smillie called for the nationalization and workers' control of Britain mines. David Lloyd George responded by setting up a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Sankey. The Sankey Royal Commission failed to agree about the solutions to these problems, but the majority of the members did support the idea of the mines being nationalized. Smillie was furious when Lloyd George refused to nationalize the mines and allowed them to go back into private ownership.

Smillie had tried several times to enter the House of Commons. He was defeated at by-elections in 1895 (Glasgow) and 1901 (N.E. Lanarkshire) and at General Elections held in 1906 (Paisley) and 1910 (Glasgow). Smillie was finally elected MP for Morpeth in the 1923 General Election. He declined a post in the 1924 Labour Government headed by Ramsay MacDonald.

As a result of poor health, Smillie was forced to resign his Morpeth seat in 1929. Robert Smillie retired to Dumfries where he died on 16th February, 1940.

"Late in life I have realised, what I failed to see in the early days, that the root of all our social problems lies in the land question. So long as land is withheld from free access to men, anxious and willing to utilise Nature's bounty, just so long will you have a crowd of men at the factory gate waiting for jobs. The key to the anomalies we are all endeavouring to solve is the land problem. …If the atmosphere could have been parcelled out and bottled up so that every child that comes into the world would only be allowed to breathe on the payment of air-rent, you can picture a state of affairs as deplorable, but no less unjust and ridiculous, as that obtaining at the present time with your private ownership and monopoly of the land."

[A statement made at Newcastle-under-Lyme, October 1921]



Smith,
Adam
(1720-1790)




ENLARGE

In Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations we find the germs of the idea that land rent is peculiarly an unearned and exploitative income:

As soon as land becomes private property, the landlord demands a share of almost all the produce which the labourer can either raise, or collect from it. His rent makes the first deduction from the produce of the labour which is employed upon the land. [Book 1, Ch.8, p.29]

The idea of land rent as an income which, altogether apart from any special activity of the land owner, tends to increase spontaneously with the progress of society, yielding to its recipients a relatively increasing share in the distribution of wealth, is also found in the Wealth of Nations [Book I, Ch. 11, p.115]:

Every improvement in the circumstances of the society tends either directly or indirectly to raise the real rent of land, to increase the real wealth of the landlord, his power of purchasing the labour, or the produce of the labour of other people.

The real value of the landlord's share, his real command of the labour of other people, not only rises with the real value of the produce, but the proportion of his share to the whole produce rises with it.


Smith then addressed the subject of whether the rent of land ought to be taxed [Book 5, Ch.2, pp.380-81:

Both ground-rents and the ordinary rent of land are a species of revenue which the owner, in many cases, enjoys without any care or attention of his own. Though a part of this revenue should be taken from him in order to defray the expenses of the state, no discouragement will thereby be given to any sort of industry. ...Ground-rents, and the ordinary rnt of land, are therefore, perhaps, the species of revenue which can best bear to have a peculiar tax imposed upon them.

Ground rents seem in this respect a more proper subject of peculiar taxation than even the ordinary rent of land. ...Ground-rents, so far as they exceed the ordinary rent of land, are altogether owing to the good government of the sovereign. ...Nothing can be more reasonable than that a fund which owes its existence to the good government of the stae should be taxed peculiarly, or should contribute something more than the greater part of other funds towards the support of that government.


A tax upon ground-rents would not raise the rent of houses. It would fall altogether upon the owner of the ground-rent, who acts always as a monopolist and exacts the greatest rent which can be got for the use of the ground.

[From: Wealth of Nations (1776), Book V, Chap. 2, Art.1]


Smith,
Adam




ENLARGE

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its naturla produce.

[From: Wealth of Nations, Book I., Chap. 6]


Smith,
Gerrit




ENLARGE

Smith was born in Utica, New York, on 6 March, 1797. After graduating at Hamilton College in 1818, he assumed the management of his family estate. In the late 1820s he became active in the temperance movement, and then became an abolitionist in 1835. In 1840 he helped to organize the Liberty party. An "Industrial Congress" at Philadelphia nominated him for the Presidency in 1848, and the "Land Reformers" in 1856. In 1840 and in 1858 he was a candidate for the governorship of New York on an anti-slavery platform.

In 1853 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent, and issued an address declaring that all men have an equal right to the soil; that wars are brutal and unnecessary; that slavery could be sanctioned by no constitution, state or federal; that free trade is essential to human brotherhood; that women should have full political rights; that the Federal government and the states should prohibit the liquor traffic within their respective jurisdictions; and that government officers, so far as practicable, should be elected by direct vote of the people. At the end of the first session he resigned his seat. After becoming an opponent of land monopoly, he gave numerous farms of fifty acres each to indigent families, and also attempted to colonize tracts in northern New York State with free negroes. He favored a vigorous prosecution of the Civil War, but at its close advocated a mild policy toward the late Confederate states, declaring that part of the guilt of slavery lay upon the North.

His private benefactions were boundless; of his gifts he kept no record, but their value is said to have exceeded $8 million. Though a man of great wealth his life was one of marked simplicity. He died on the 28th of December 1874, while on a visit to relatives in New York City.

I admit that there are things in which a man can have absolute property, and which without qualification or restriction he can buy or sell or bequeath at his pleasure. But I deny that the soil is among these things.

[From a Speech to the U.S. Congress, 21 February, 1854. Speeches of Gerrit Smith, p.74]


Smith,
Gerrit




The world will be much happier when land monopoly shall cease, because manual labor will then be so honorable, because so well-nigh universal. It will be happier too, because the wges system, with all its attendant degradation and unhappy influences, will find but little room in the new and radically changed condition of society.

[From: Speeches in the U.S. Congress (1854), pp.84-5]


Smith,
Gerrit




The vacant land belongs to the landless. The simple fact that the one is vacant and the other landless is of itself the highest proof that they should be allowed to come together. Alas, what a crime against nature that they should be kept apart.

[From: Speeches in the U.S. Congress (1854), p. 247]


Snell,
Henry




ENLARGE

Henry Snell, the son of an agricultural labourer, was born at Sutton-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, in 1865. He was educated at the local school until he reached the age of twelve. As an adult, he moved to London, where he joined the Mechanics' Institution and used the University College reference library. Books that deeply influenced him at this time included books The Age of Reason by Tom Paine, Progress and Poverty by Henry George and Towards Democracy by Edward Carpenter.

In 1894 Snell joined the Fabian Society. He then joined Ramsay MacDonald, Graham Wallas, Catherine Glasier and Bruce Glasier in travelling around the country giving lecturers on subjects such as 'Socialism', 'Trade Unionism', 'Co-operation' and 'Economic History'.

Snell was also a early member of the Labour Party and made several attempts to represent the party in the House of Commons. After failing to be elected in Huddersfield in 1910 and 1918 he was eventually elected to represent Woolwich in London in the 1922 General Election. He continued in politics and between 1935 and 1940 was leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords. Henry Snell died on 21st April 1944.

I was one of the many thousands of young men whose political and social views were greatly stimulated by Henry George's famous book Progress and Poverty, which, if measured by the breadth and the depth of its influence on the thoughtful workmen of the eighties, must be considered as one of the greatest political documents of that generation.

[From: Men Movements and Myself, 1936]


Snowden,
Philip
(1854-1937)




ENLARGE

I heard Henry George just before 'Progress and Poverty' had been published, a book which had made a tremendous impression in the United States and Great Britain. Henry George was having something of a triumphal tour through Scotland. The Scottish Radicals had been captured by the theories he had advanced in 'Progress and Poverty'.

No book every written on the social problem made so many converts. Economic facts and theories have never been presented in such an attractive way. Although Henry George was not a socialist, his book led many of his readers to socialism. Keir Hardie told me that it was 'Progress and Poverty' which gave him his first ideas of socialism.

Henry George had a very impressive platform style. In appearance he was of middle height, well built, had a full, brown beard, and would have passed for a Nonconformist minister. His style of speaking was conversational, rather than oratorical.


[from: An Autobiography, 1934]



Snowden served in the Liberal government of Lloyd George as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Concerned over the desperate conditions of the 1930s, Snowden campaigned for reform of the tax struture. He wrote:

There never was a time when the need was greater than it is today for the application of the philosophy and principles of Henry George to the economic and political conditions which are scourging the whole world. The root cause of the world's economic distress is surely obvious to every man who has eyes to see and a brain to understand. So long as land is a monopoly, and men are denied free access to it to apply their labor to its uses, poverty and unemployment will exist. Permanent Peace can only be established when men and nations have realized that natural resources should be a common heritage, and used for the good of all mankind.

"Until they had abolished landlordism root and branch, every other attempt at reform was building upon the sands. Every reform not based on common ownership of the land was simply subsidising landlordism. Every social reform increased the economic rent of land. Therefore, unless they were going to continue to waste their efforts by tinkering with social questions as in the past, they must concentrate upon this fundamental question, to secure the land for the people."

[Mr. Philip Snowden, at Memorial Hall, London, 24th May 1919 (Land Nationaliser, June 1919)]



"We hold the position that the whole economic value of land belongs to the community and that no individual has the right to appropriate and enjoy what belongs to the community as a whole. Let there be no mistake about it. When the Labour Government does sit upon those benches it will not deserve to have a second term of office unless in the most determined manner it tries to secure social wealth for social purposes."

[Mr. Philip Snowden, House of Commons, 4th July 1923 (on Third Reading of Finance Bill)]



Solow,
Robert




ENLARGE

The user of land should not be allowed to acquire rights of indefinite duration for single payments. For efficiency, for adequate revenue and for justice, every user of land should be required to make an annual payment to the local government equal to the current rental value of the land that he or she prevents others from using.

[1987]


Spence,
Thomas




Let all the Parishioners unite, take Archdeacon Paley in one hand and the Bible in the other, assemble in an adjoining field, and after having debated the subject to their own satisfaction, enter into a Convention and unanimously agree to a Declaration of Rights, in which it is declared that all the land, including coal-pits, mines, rivers, etc., belonging to the Parish of Bees, now in the possession of Lord Drone, shall on Lady Day, 25th March, 18--, become public property, the joint stock and common farm, in which every Parishioner shall enjoy an equal participation.

[From: Land for the Landless (1893), p.14]


Spence,
Thomas



Thomas Spence, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, advocated ideas strikingly similar to those of Henry George in a lecture before the Philosophical Society of Newcastle on 8 November 1775 (for the printing of which, wrote Spence, "the society did the Author the honour to expel him"). Spence believed in the natural right of all men to land. Concerning the private appropriation of land, Spence wrote [The Rights of Infants, 1796, p.3]:

For as all the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full, so let there ever so many sources of wealth, let trade, foreign and domestic, open all their sluices, yet will no other but the landed interest be ultimately the better.

Spence's remedy was "to administer the landed estate of the nation as a joint-stock property, in parochial partnerships, by dividing the rent" [The Whole Rights of Man, 1796, p.11]

There are no tolls or taxes of any kind paid among them, by native or foreigner, but the aforesaid rent. The government, poor, roads, etc. etc. ... are all maintained by the parishes with the rent: on which account all wares, manufactures, allowable trade, employments, or actions, are entirely duty-free.

Spencer,
Herbert
(1820-1910)




ENLARGE

Herbert Spencer, in his Social Statics, published in 1850, the same year as Patrick Edward Dove's work, gave the fullest exposition of the natural rights theory applied to land prior to Henry George's writings. In chapter IX, The Right to the Use of the Earth, he declared that "equity ... does not permit property in land" [p.132]:

The right of each man to use of the earth, limited only by the like rights of his fellow-men, is immediately deducible from the law of equal freedom. We see that the maintenance of this right necessarily forbids private property in land. On examination, all existing titles to such property turn out to be invalid.

Spencer believed that equal apportionment of the earth among its inhabitants and common property in land would be alike unfeasible. But the change could be effected with no serious disturbance of the existing order [p.141]:

The change required would be simply a change of land-lords. Separate ownership would merge into the joint-stock ownership of the public. Instead of being in the possession of individuals, the country would be held by the great corporate body -- Society. Instead of leasing his acres form an isolated proprietor, the farmer would lease them from the nation. Instead of paying his rent to the agent of Sir John or his Grace, he would pay it to an agent or deputy-agent of the community. Stewards would be public officials instead of private ones; and tenancy the only land tenure.

Spencer,
Herbert




Equity ... does not permit property in land. For if one portion of the earth's surface may justly become the possessio of an individual and may be held by him for his sole use and benefit as a thing to which he has an exclusive right, then other portions of the earth's surface may be so held; and eventually the whole of the earth's surface may be so held; and our planet may thus lapse into private hands.

[From: Social Statics (1850), Chap. IX]


Spencer,
Herbert


"It may by-and-by be perceived that Equity utters dictates to which we have not yet listened ; and men may then learn that to deprive others of their rights to the use of the earth, is to commit a crime inferior only in wickedness to the crime of taking away their lives or personal liberties."

[Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (1851), IX, 9]


Spencer,
Herbert


"It can never be pretended that the existing titles to such property (i.e., land) are legitimate. Should anyone think so, let him look in the chronicles. Violence, fraud, the prerogative of force, the claims of superior cunning -- these are the sources to which these titles may be traced."

[Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (1851), Chap. IX]


Spencer,
Herbert


"You have turned over the soil to a few inches in depth with a spade or a plough; you have scattered over this prepared surface a few seeds ; and you have gathered the fruits which the sun, rain, and air helped the soil to produce. Just tell me, if you please, by what magic have these acts made you sole owner of that vast mass of matter, having for its base the surface of your estate, and for its apex the centre of the globe? . . . You say truly, when you say that 'whilst they were unreclaimed these lands belonged to all men.' And it is my duty to tell you that they belong to all men still; and that your ' improvements' as you call them, cannot vitiate the claim of all men. You may plough and harrow, and sow and reap ; you may turn over the soil as often as you like; but all your manipulations will fail to make that soil yours, which was not yours to begin with. . . . This extra worth which your labour has imparted to it is fairly yours . . . but admitting this, is quite a different thing from recognising your right to the land itself."

[Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, 1851, ix, 4]



Spinoza,
Baruch de
(1632-1677)




ENLARGE

Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher, in his Tractatus Politicus proposed that the rents of the soil, supplemented perhaps by the rents of houses, should defray the expenditures of the state [Ch VI, On Monarchy, Sec. 12]:

Let the fields, and the whole soil, and, if it can be managed, the houses should be public property, that is, the property of him who holds the right of the commonwealth: and let him let them at a yearly rent to the citizens, whether townsmen or countrymen, and with this exception let them all be free, or exempt from every kind of tax in time of peace. And of this rent a part is to be applied to the defences of the state, a part to the king's private use.

Stamm,
August Theodor




In the late 1880s, A. T. Stamm, who had previously tried to start an organization he called "The Society for Humanism," sought to form a society, "The All-Weal Union." These efforts came to naught until Michael Flürscheim launched in Frankfort the "German Union for Land Ownership Reform." It gained 600 members. Their educational efforts convinced officials of the imperial government and navy of the usefulness of the land value tax for ending land speculation and provided for 16 years a practical demonstration of that in a large colonial territory, Kiaochow, China.

In 1871, Stamm, in Die Erlosung der darbenden Menschheit, wrote that private property in land was the cause of nearly all human ills. In its abolition was to be found the complete solution of the social problem. Collective ownership might be effected in several ways, but the best means, Stamm believed, was gradually to absorb the rent of land by increasing the land tax. Stamm differed from Henry George, however, in holding that, since the original wrong of private appropriation of land was not that of the present but of previous generations, the rights of present owners should receive some consideration.

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