Professor of Political Science, State University of New York
(Albany) Donald Reeb, in a research paper published in 1998 wrote
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.
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
"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.
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]
The interest of the landlord is always opposed to the
interests of every other class in the community.
[source not researched]
James Edwin Thorold
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
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.
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]
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]
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
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
[From: Century Magazine,
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]
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,
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,
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),
Russell reached the same conclusions as Henry George had,
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.
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]
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".
In the text Economics, 16th edition, p.250, the authors
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.
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.
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]
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
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]
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
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.
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.
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, 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.
"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
From the book, Everybody's Political What's What?,
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]
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. ..
Simonde de Sismondi,
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
[From: New Principles of Political
Economy (1820), Book III., Chap. 5, p. 202 (Second French
Sismonde de Sismondi,
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,
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,
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,
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]
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,
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
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]
In Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations we find the germs of
the idea that land rent is peculiarly an unearned and exploitative
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]
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 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
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
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]
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]
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]
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
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]
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
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
"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
"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)]
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.
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
[From: Land for the Landless
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,
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.
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
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),
"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]
"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]
"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, 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
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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