Is the Taxation of Income Socialism?
[An excerpt, "No Sir! No Socialism!"
reprinted from an undated pamphlet,
Simple Talks on Taxation, published by the author]
...Seems to me something ought to
be done about this tax business, Bob. What do you think?
ought to be done, Harry, is for the public to collect what it
creates. What really belongs to it.
... What do you mean -- "belongs
the public should collect the land rental and nothing else.
...And not tax anything else! Why
that wouldn't be fair! Doesn't the public create the value of
...Sure. But the public
creates land value by just being there. Everything else takes
work to give it value.
... Yeah. Take your necktie. You
can easily list more than a hundred people that had something to
do with producing that tie. The designer, the weaver, the
teamster, the people that made the loom. Just make a list. But
there isn't a living soul that can take credit, or ought to be
paid, for making the face of the globe.
what about the landlord? He paid good money for the land, didn't
... No. Not exactly for the
land. He bought the privilege of location among people. He, or
his forebears, may have paid for the title, but the people
created the value, so he bought the privilege of collecting what
... But he
owns it, doesn't he?
... No. Not the way a man owns a
wheelbarrow or a violin. You can only say that he has acquired
... Well, what they own cost
something. What the landlord owns didn't cost anything.
you mean! Didn't cost anything?
... All right What did it cost?
He probably paid plenty for it!
... Did he pay somebody to make
course not. It was always there.
... If he paid plenty for it, it
must have value.
... It sure
... Who made the value?
... I don't
know. But land keeps going up.
wherever there's people that want land.
...Then we can say that while
people don't make the land, they make, or create its value,
...Shouldn't the people be paid
for what they create?
But the landlord owns the land, all right.
... So he has the right to hold
up, or charge, other people who want to use it.
...He has the right to collect an
income that is made by the people?
... Then, when he collects what
the people make, the people have to take a big chunk out of what
you make and what I make, and out of what our capital earns, to
replace the income they create and he collects.
not? He bought the title to the land, didn't he?
... From who?
some other feller, I s'pose.
... And who'd the other feller buy
What're you driving at? How should I know?
... I'm driving at one thing you
should know -- and that is that the first feller who sold the
land title didn't pay anything for it because it was there and
it didn't cost anything to make it As you said a minute ago, the
landlord bought die title. That's one way that land is different
from wheelbarrows and violins. You can carry them away, but a
land title is only an evidence that he has sole right of
occupancy, or to charge for occupancy, and that's not really a
... What do
you mean -- it isn't a right?
... I mean that you could pay for
some power or condition that is an artificial right and not a
would it be if it wasn't a right?
... Well, in this case, the power
to collect what the public creates would be better described as
... Don't you see any?
...The difference is that a right
is something that is a part of yourself. You have a right to the
possession of your own body. You should have a right to whatever
you make, either the article itself or the money paid to you for
your work. A privilege is something artificial, something
created by legal enactment.
it's created by law, that ought to satisfy you.
... I didn't say "law,"
I said "Legal enactment."
...To me, a law is something that
-- Well, let's say, that couldn't be repealed. Like the law of
gravity or the Mendelian law of heredity. Like the physical law
under which water, by certain temperature variations, turns to
steam, fluid or ice. Then there are things that seem like laws,
Gresham's for example, "bad money drives out good money."
But most of the rulings that we call "laws" ought to
be called nothing more than "legal enactments." And
any man's "right" to collect land rental comes from a
damn poor "law."
poor about it?
... What's poor is that he paid
some man who had nothing to do with its being there, for the "right"
to tell you and me to "keep the hell out of here!",
and if we say "Why should we? We create its value," he
can say "Well, you go on creating it and I'll go on
collecting it, so get out!" And, damn fools that we are,
we'd have to get out. Now if he was paying the land rental into
the public treasury, where you and I would get the benefit of
it, he'd have a real right He could say "I've paid you
fellers what you have made it worth, and as long as I keep on
paying, the place is mine," and we'd have to agree and say "That's
fair enough, Mister, you're right" But, as it is, he's
bought a privilege.
what's wrong with a privilege?
... Oh, nothing. Nothing at all if
you're on the collecting end, but I should think that you, as a
good American, would be the first to say that no man should have
the legal power to live at your expense.
mean? At my expense?
...If you pay taxes because he
doesn't -- If you pay him just to get out of your way -- he's
living at your expense, and that's a privilege -- in my book.
... Well, I
don't look at it that way. It sounds like Socialism to me. I
think we all ought to pay taxes and sump-m oughter be done. But
no Socialism! I hate Socialism! But, after all, the hell with
worrying about that. How'd the game go? I hear the Giants lost
... I don't know. I don't follow
the ball games.
You don't? Gee! That sounds kind of
un-American to me. Well, so long, Bob.
... So long, Harry. It's nice to
think that the Income Tax isn't Socialistic.