The Single Tax at the Geneva Conference


[From The Nation, 1 June 1927. Reprinted from Land and Freedom, May-June 1927]

THE Birmingham (England) Gazette of May 26th prints an interview with Mr. A. W. Madsen on the progress of land value taxation throughout the world, with special reference to the Memorandum addressed to the Economic Conference. After giving a summary of the arguments for free trade and land value taxation contained in this document, Mr. Madsen is quoted as saying that he and Mr. Douglas were not able to have the Memorandum presented as an official document, but it was given to every member.

The delegate from Columbia, Dr. Restrepo, when taking part in the discussion on agriculture, called upon the conference to consider the economic and fiscal system of a Single Tax on land values, particularly with reference to those land owners who took rent from land without contributing anything towards its productivity.

Similarly, Mr. Weber, general secretary of the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions, told the conference that what ever might be done to help agriculture by way of tariffs, cooperation, credits, and so on, such schemes would inevitably have the effect of increasing rents, thus benefiting the land owner without benefiting the farmer, as such.

Showing how the system of land value taxation was growing in favor Glasgow recently called a conference of the local rating authorities in Scotland, and is determined to petition Parliament for powers to rate land values. Cardiff decided the other day to call a conference of the Welsh rating authorities to discuss the matter. Sheffield Town Council has appointed a special committee to inquire and report; and at Newcastle on Tyne similar action is being taken.

THE truth is that if this Economic Conference is to be of any value whatever it must sooner or later grapple with the tariff problem. As long as tariff barriers exist between members of the League of Nations that League becomes more or less of a joke. That has been clearly pointed out in the admirable memorandum addressed to the Conference in Geneva by the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade. "The very existence of a tariff or other artificial obstacles to trade is an implicit betrayal," the Union correctly asserts, "of the spirit of the League of Nations."