Does Rent Enter Into Price?
Samuel M. Levin
[Reprinted from the Henry George Fellowship News,
Single-Taxers themselves, those usually invulnerable logicians of
economics, are split into two raging factions on the question of
whether rent enters into price.
Offhand, the topic seems academic. Who cares a hoot whether it does
Well, everyone should care.
Look at it this way. You walk into a chain grocery; you lay a quarter
on the counter, and ask for a can of Peacherino Pineapple; the manager
curtly informs you the price is 30 cents.
But, you expostulate, your store two blocks west charges only 25
cents! "They pay a much smaller rent than we," he remarks
Would you pay the price? In a pig's eye. You'd seize your quarter,
blisteringly denounce the poor simp, and manfully trudge those two
You'd show him that rent does not enter into price! That the only
price you'll pay for a given article is the lowest price you can
obtain it for. That "price is determined at the margin," as
the economist likes to say.
Our question, you triumphantly assert, is easily answerable.
But -- suppose there is no margin? Suppose only one place on earth
sells that brand of pineapple?
We can see the problem more clearly in the case of an absolute
necessity, the supply of which is extremely limited.
Suppose, for instance, a physician should discover that a certain
drug, PHENOMINE, is an absolute cure for cancer. Suppose, further,
that the entire world's supply of PHENOMINE grew in Winnetka, and
Two results would immediately follow these discoveries. First,
Winnetka land values would skyrocket to dizzy figures; second, the
price of PHENOMINE would skyrocket to equally dizzy figures. ...
Now. ... does rent enter into price?
Yes and no.
Price is determined at the margin. This is always true. ...
Where the margin is ONE SPOT ONLY -- where MONOPOLY exists -- rent
does enter price; it is the largest element in price (No TRUE monopoly
exists in the world).
Where a QUASI-MONOPOLY exists (witness diamonds, platinum, tin) price
-- always determined at the margin -- will be relatively high. Rent
again enters price -- and causes it to remain consistently high.
Where a highly competitive condition exists, as in the case of wheat,
sugar -- price, still determined at the margin, will be relatively
low. Rent enters into price practically not at all in such (and most)
commodities; because at the margin practically no rent is paid.
In other words, not RENT but MONOPOLY or QUASI-MONOPOLY enters into