Economic Gambling

K.P. Alexander

[Reprinted from the Single Tax Review, 1915]

God created the land, the water and the air, their value manifestly to be used by all men of all generations. No other title was granted.

Men collectively only can create "economic rent," the "unearned increment," site value, location value, land-value, the rental value of bare land exclusive of improvements. Land values cannot be produced by an individual.

True economic rent is the cost of the advantage of increased efficiency due to subdivison of human effort; it is the price of social as against solitary existence. Land values justly belong to the community producing them, by the same right of property that individually-created values belong to the individual producing them.

Without grave injustice to its producing members, a community cannot omit to collect and use its own publicly-produced earnings, or, so much of economic rents as may be required for public expenditures. Omission necessitates needlessly taxing private production.

Purchasing a land title for speculative purposes, or except for use of the location, is acquiring a publicly-produced privilege to individually appropriate the joint product of others without rendering service therefor. It has no other possible value.

Dealing in land in order to individually absorb the unearned increment is immeasurably more detrimental to industry, business, and society in general, than the petty forms of private and public gambling the law has already frowned upon.

A poker player buys chips which represent a privilege to bet he will win wealth. He lives by such winnings, solely upon the earnings of others. A land speculator buying a land title purchases a privilege to privately appropriate public earnings of a community - the product created by pressure of population. Poker chips accurately illustrate the rights and the true relationship of land titles to the people. A title owner may forestall progress by purchasing land in the path that business must take and thereby become legally enabled to collect tribute of wealth producers. But, as a land owner only, he produces nothing. He lives, by such tribute, solely upon the earnings of others.

Gambling for wealth, the product of labor and capital applied to land, merely transfers previously produced wealth from one foolish loser to a shrewd or accidental winner, each of whom, to be poker players, should be gentlemen well able to afford such losses. It morally affects both, but financially affects but one of them. It does not affect the total store of wealth, hinder the further production of wealth, reduce the net returns of labor and capital, nor add to the cost of living.

Gambling in land, the creation of God and the primary source of all wealth, transfers previously produced wealth from many producers, who, by reason of the present general superficial comprehension or lack of mental alertness as regards economics, have thus far been helpless to prevent it. In every community the losers are fully ninety per cent of the people.

Land speculation and idle-land holding absorbs from the general store of wealth without rendering any value in return; it tends to keep production of wealth to the minimum, and to cause its inequitable distribution; it paralyzes business; it holds wages and interest, the earnings of labor and capital, to the minimum; it adds tremendously and with utter needlessness to the cost of living; it is the fundamental cause of involuntary poverty, of disease, of war, and of the imagined need of socialism.

The sovereign remedy is to gradually abolish all taxes on industry, business and thrift, and in lieu thereof derive all public revenue from the rental value of land - the public earnings.