A Solution For Unemployment
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, March-April
The fact that men are actually unable to employ "themselves in
this richest and most prosperous of all nations, is an indictment of
our social order. It is not only absurd and ridiculous, but criminal
as well. While a number of causes contribute to this condition, the
most important factor is our method of taxation. The sovereign power
to tax carries with it the power to destroy. Our method, or lack of
method of using this power, is surely undermining and destroying our
civilization. When this power is allowed individuals or an organized
group of individuals, (a special privilege), to indirectly collect
tribute from their fellow-citizens, it leads to the concentration of
wealth and political corruption.
But of the many disastrous results of our tax policy only five are
First: the taxation of industry, (capital and labor), and the
products of labor, necessitates an increased price for the goods
produced; thus increasing the cost of living for all consumers. Its
tendency is to hamper and oppress industrial activity, individual
initiative and enterprise.
Second: this taxation of industry that is now estimated as carrying
four-fifths of the entire burden, is a powerful incentive and
stimulation to speculate in and hold land. The ever increasing land
values in growing communities, as compared with the light tax, renders
such speculation and ownership exceedingly profitable.
An unusual profit was mentioned recently by Mr. H.G. Zander,
President of the National Association of Real Estate Boards. He is
reported as saying : "In Chicago there was a certain piece of
property that could not be sold for $30,000 five years ago. Recently,
after street improvements had been made, it sold for more than
$1,000,000. This unearned increment was handed to the owner on a
silver platter by the entire city of Chicago, which paid the cost of
improvement by a bond issue spread over the whole city." It will
be noted that our tax laws allowed $970,000 worth of land value,
created by the taxpayers money, to be diverted to this one particular
land-owner. It was most decidedly, "unearned increment."
With such immense prizes to be gained, why should not men of vision
and foresight, engage in land speculation and ownership?
Third: this incitement to land speculation by the taxation of
industry, has a most deplorable result in closing opportunities
against the worker, and thus denying self-employment. Labor's only
outlet, the natural resources of Mother Earth, from which all wealth
is derived and all life sustained, is an almost closed shop to future
It makes little difference what kind of labor is seeking a job;
whether the hopeful young graduates of the schools attempting to
establish homes, or the older workers who are now being rapidly
displaced by modern inventions. The only chance left them to utilize
the earth that Nature has given to the children of men, is to assume a
heavy mortgage for a long period, which would finally break them, in
case of sickness or accident.
Fourth: the excessive price of sites is responsible for the housing
problem, that Senator Copeland of New York claims is becoming serious;
already, a quarter of a million buildings behind our need.
This shortage of buildings forces the unemployed to overcrowd the
poorer quarters, and this situation creates the slum district, where
poverty and destitution soon rob the victims of self-respect, and
crime and criminality, naturally follow.
Fifth: the taxation of industry is a most pernicious, unrecognized
and unsuspected method, of transferring wealth from one class of
people to another class of people; in other words, land users, men of
enterprise, ambition and industry, are taxed by their own laws to make
up the deficit in the budget, occasioned by awarding land owners a
large portion of the ground rent conferred upon their land, by the
social and governmental activities of their fellow-citizens. Why
should a goodly portion of the earnings of 80 to 90 per cent, of the
people, (land users), be transferred by taxation to the private
pockets of 10 to 20 per cent, of the people (land owners)?
By what moral right does possession of land convey or justify
ownership of the ground rent, land value, or better, people-value,
that increases or decreases with the coming or going of the people?
That land itself is simply a reflector or looking-glass of the values
the people themselves create is clearly seen. If it is true that the
thing created is rightfully the property of its creator; if individual
earnings belong to the individual, ought not social or land value
belong to society, or the organized people who create it?
These five indictments of the present tax on industry, indicate just
how absurd, ridiculous and criminal, the Robin Hood style of
collecting public revenue actually is.
A style that increases prices; induces speculation in the only source
of food and life; creates involuntary unemployment; develops crime,
and robs the workers on the land, to award unearned increment to
owners of the land.
If the citizens were to derive all their governmental needs from the
land values they create, it would be a scientific method; a payment
for benefits received; in harmony with every day business principles;
a quid pro quo.
The citizens through their organized services and developments,
confer upon themselves increased values which are reflected in these
particular sites. Under the plan suggested the citizens would return
an equivalent value to their own treasury, for further service and
development. A revolving fund, ever increasing and adequate to the
This equitable, square deal method of securing public revenue,
eliminates all taxation of industry, personal property and
improvements; hence, greatly reducing the cost of living. Again, this
method abolishes all land speculation, and opens the natural resources
of the earth to use; thus leaving no excuse for unemployment.
This solution of the unemployment problem can be practically applied
when sufficient voters demand it. The voters of this generation, if
willing to surrender their possible fraction of a chance to get rich
at the expense of their fellows, can thus easily unlock the treasures
of Dame Nature to all unemployed. Not so very heavy a price to pay for
so great a boon.