Can We Really Own Land?

Joseph Thompson

[An excerpt, "It's Mine. I Own It!" reprinted from an undated pamphlet,
Simple Talks on Taxation, published by the author]

... No sir! That looks like gov'ment ownership to me. I want to feel sure that little piece of land I own, belong to me! And no-one can take it away from me.
... And if the government was to take the full rental value every year, you'd feel that it didn't belong to you any more?
... How could it? It'd be government property. I'd only be a renter.
... But you're not a renter now, Eh?
... No sir. I own it.
... So you don't have to pay anybody anything?
... That's right.
... You're not telling me you don't pay taxes?
... Taxes! I pay plenty taxes! What're you talking about?
... Oh. Then you mean that you pay taxes, but you don't have to?
... Sa-ay! Would I pay taxes if I didn't have to?
... Why? What would happen if you didn't?
... Boy! The ol' Sheriff d be down here and I'd be "sold for taxes"!
... I thought you said the little piece of land belonged to you and that no-one could take it away?
... We-l-11. I'm all right as long as I pay my taxes, then.
... What you mean is, if you pay your taxes on the little piece of land and your house, furniture, car and income, don't you?
... We-1-11. I s'pose so.
... But you don't think that is Socialistic?
... I don't think it's as Socialistic as it would be to make me a land renter.
... You don't think you're any smarter than die Rockefeller Estate, do you?
... What kind of a crazy question is that?
... It's not crazy. The Rockefellers are renters.
... What-d-you mean?
... Well, you know they built Rockefeller Center?
... Sure.
... Did you know they don't own the land there. Just rent it?
... The hell they do! Is that -- are you sure?
... Look it up. The land belongs to Columbia University.
... I'll be darned! Put all those buildings on land they just rent!
... It works out to be a damn good deal for them. I'll explain it to you some time. But to get back to your little piece of land. Rather than just pay land rental, you like having the Assessor guess how much your house is worth, and you like lying about the value of your furniture, and you like having your car tax quadrupled because you bought a new car, and you like making out your income tax return, and you like forking over a percentage on everything you buy, and you like to have your family shaken down for a big governent cut out of what you would otherwise be able to leave to them?
... You're crazy. I don't like a damn one of them!
... And you don't think they're Socialistic. Is that it?
... Sure thing! The Socialists didn't start them. No Socialism for me!
... Let's suppose you were to quit paying them all, and just paid an annual land rent instead of taxes, that'd be Socialism, Eh?
... It'd be gov'ment ownership, wouldn't it?
... No more than now. Haven't you just said that the ol" Sheriff'd take over if you didn't pay your taxes? What could be more gover'ment ownership than that?
... Well, I s'pose so. But I wouldn't want the gov'ment managing my property.
... There's a big difference between collecting rent and managing property, but you don't mind their managing your income and your purchases and your estate. Suppose they didn't stick their shovel into your affairs -- just collected the land rent - -
... Well, that looks like Socialism to me. And I'm no Socialist! Oh! Say Bob! I hear they caught the feller that robbed the First National of Eight hundred and eighty dollars!
... Funny thing. That's within Three dollars of what the government took from me! They haven't arrested the government yet, though.