Single-Tax Not a Levy on the 'Workers'

Henry George

[Originally published in The Standard, 1 January, 1890.
Reprinted from The New Abolition, Vol. 1, No. 9, September, 1939]

While the single-tax . . . must take the products of labor - for it is only in the products of labor, or their representatives, that taxes can be paid - it does not take from the laborer. It only takes that part of the products of labor which the laborer cannot retain, and which if not taken in taxes will go to the land-owners.

Approaching the matter in this way the question may suggest itself, "Ought not the whole product of labor go to the laborer?" The answer is, No; the whole product of labor ought to go to the laborer only where the natural opportunity which he uses is such as any other laborer can get. Where the opportunity of which he is accorded the use is a superior one, then in order to secure equality he should contribute for the use and_ benefit of all an amount equivalent to the superiority of the opportunity which he is permitted to use.

Or to put the matter in another way, Labor is the producer of wealth (or labor products) only in the sense of being the active and human factor. Labor cannot produce without having something to produce from. That something consists of the material and forces of nature, the passive or responsive factor in producing, which are all comprehended under the term land. . . .

This is what the Single-Tax does. It would not fall at all on those who were using only land of no special advantage. Such land would have no value, and consequently would be liable to no tax. It would only fall on those who were holding peculiarly valuable land, and on them, not in proportion to their labor, not in proportion to what they did, but in proportion to the special value of the opportunity they held, and from which they, therefore, kept out others - for it is this value of opportunity which gives a value to land irrespective of improvements.