Rent Is the Fund for Paying a Citizens Dividend
[An excerpt ("The Government Would Pay Me!"
reprinted from an
undated pamphlet, Simple Talks on Taxation, published by the
You're always talking about government and taxation, and I'm a
kind of ignoramus but I was thinking you could tell me whether
we need any government at all.
sure, we need a government to do a lot of things that you and me
- you and I couldn't do by ourselves, and we're lucky our
government is, at least, supposed to be one of laws, not rulers.
So we write laws and then hire employees to administer them. And
that's the Government.
If we hire them,
how do we pay them?
of public funds.
What are public funds?
funds are money that is taken from us.
Who takes it?
employees. The government.
they write our tax laws that authorize them to take part of your
income and your purchases and part of - Well, nearly everything
Under their laws, how much
of a part can they take?
limit. They limit themselves a little, but so far, no ceiling
has been set. They take a little from some of us and a lot from
Oh. I see. Depends on what
the government does for you?
no! Some of us pay a lot and get nothing.
I suppose then, that
there's some scientific basis for the amount taken.
Well, what is it based on?
Apathy, habit, ignorance, opinion, greed and intrigue.
Doesn't sound like a very
a rotten basis. That's why we have the curses of miserable
poverty and excessive wealth, side by side.
Well, I've been around long
enough to admire a lot of things like mathematics, engineering
and medicine, and one feller explained to me that they've been
achieved by scientific methods. Why don't the government use
scientific methods to get its income?
Largely because Apathy, Habit and Ignorance leave the way clear
for Opinion, Greed and Intrigue.
You said that that's why
you have poverty and excessive wealth. Is everybody satisfied
should say not. A lot of us are working to change things.
you were just referring to scientific methods. We're applying
Yes, I mentioned them but I
don't know just what they are.
methods mean gathering all available facts, deducing conclusions
from them and adopting such a system as they indicate.
You say a lot of you are
working and using the scientific method to change the present
system. What does the method indicate?
indicate that there are two fundamental facts that our present
What facts are they?
is that there are only two sources of income. One, the bounties
of nature and Two, the creativeness and efforts of men, a part
of which is not consumed and forms capital. Or, to put it
shorter: Land and Labor.
Two sources of income?
Well, the government takes part of both of them, you say. What's
wrong with that?
your "both of them" that's wrong.
of fundamental fact number two, which is that they are
How are they opposite?
belongs to all of us. The other belongs to each of us.
That sounds clever but what
does it mean?
means that die bounties of nature belong to all of us and that
what each of us earns belongs to each one of us who earns it.
And what are the bounties
land, the air, minerals and forests.
How do you mean: They
belong to us?
you say you're an ignoramus, but who would you say they belonged
Why, to - let me see, - to
- wait a minute, to -
Why of course! To die
people they belong to now!
see, now. Let's talk about the land. Why does the land belong to
the people it belongs to now?
I s'pose because they
bought it or inherited it or homesteaded it or something.
you say "bought it" you mean that they bought the
title to it. Huh?
Well that's the way you get
possession of land isn't it?
Sure. You don't really buy the land, you buy the title that
gives you the right to sole occupancy of a certain area.
What's wrong with that?
wrong is that the man you bought the title from had nothing to
do with supplying it or giving it the value you paid him for.
Who did give it the value?
of us, but we, the people that give it the value, don't get any
part of what we create. The man that sold you the title walks
off with the payment for a value we created and you start in
collecting the income that we will continue to create.
Why do you say that we
the land have any value and would you pay him for it if there
were no people there?
No. I s'pose not.
the fact that we are here is what makes the value, and the more
people, the more value.
But isn't that true of
What's the difference?
difference is as big as the difference between the Equator and
the presence of us people is the sole and the single and the
solitary and the only thing that gives value to the land, while
human individual effort, plus the presence of the people, gives
value to everything else.
What you're saying
is that all the people make the land value, so they all ought to
get it Huh?
How could they? You can't
split the land up among all the people!
But you can split the value up.
making the land rent and the bounties of nature be the public
I don't see that'd be any
better than now.
don't! Now look. You need some land. So you pay someone a good
price for it, or you pay him rent, don't you?
the government collects income and sales and personal property
and all the other taxes from you?
I'll say they do!
right. Suppose the rent you paid for the land was the only thing
the government collected from you and all the taxes and
annoyances we listed a minute ago were abolished, wouldn't that
be better than now when you pay the government income to some
individual and your own income to the government?
Yeh. But I'll bet the
government would just add all that rent they'd get to all the
taxes we have now.
probably would try, and if we were stupid enough to let them,
and I'll freely admit that insofar as taxes are concerned, we
are that stupid now, that's just what they'd do, but if we were
smart enough to collect what is ours, collectively, we'd likely
be smart enough to say "Hands off!" of what rightfully
belonged to each one of us.
That's all very well, but
what about the land owner?
What about him?
Why if the government took
all the rent, there'd be no profit in owning land! 'You'd be
nationalizing the land!
Well, a fellow can own a
piece of land now. It isn't nationalized.
What do you mean, "if?
a hell of a big "if" there.
I don't get you.
he pays his taxes on the land. "If" he pays his taxes
on the improvements."If " he pays his taxes on his
personal property - You finish the list. And don't forget his
All right then. You say he
pays the taxes on the land, and on nothing else.
I say he pays the full rental value of the land, and nothing
If all the rental was taken
by the government, what'd be the use of owning land?
could live on it. You could build a factory on it. You could
grow an orchard on it. You could leave it to your heirs. In
short: You could use it.
But suppose you
wanted to buy it for an investment?
be a damn poor investment, because the only value of land is the
rental value and if the government took it all there'd be
nothing left as a return on your investment. So no one would see
any good in paying you anything.
Then who would buy it?
Well! I like that! You
invest in a piece of land. You hold it for an increase in the
value. The government takes all the value out of it You get no
profit You might even lose your investment!
for sure. There'd be no point in holding land unless you were
But you'd kill the business
of buying land for speculation!
for sure, too. And so much the better. We ought to kill it Say,
did it ever occur to you that the only difference between a land
speculator and a stick-up robber is that one is legal and the
other is not?
No. It didn't occur to me
because it isn't so!
isn't eh? What does the speculator do, but say "I know that
someone will need this land, so I've bought it up so that when
he needs it, I can get in his way and say 'pay me to get out of
your way'." What else does he do for you? And I ask you,
how is that different from a stick-up?
A stick-up is a crime! Land
speculation's no crime.
what I've just said. That's the only difference.
You mean to say, then, that
I couldn't leave a piece of land for my wife to own and collect
the rent off a lessee?
Not the land rent Of course if there were improvements on the
land she wouldn't have to pay any taxes on the improvements and
she'd get an income, or she could sell the improvements and the
buyer would take over the payment of the land rental.
What you're saying then, is
"Goodbye to making any money out of land and land
I'm saying is "Goodbye to private collection of public
money and public confiscation of private money."
Gee! There'd be an awful
howl of obstruction and objection!
For sure. But Samuel Johnson once said "Nothing will ever
be accomplished if all possible objection must first be
overcome." And one of these days, if this country was run
as competently as most of our big companies, it'd be paying us
dividends out of our natural common wealth.
Gee! I hope I live to see
that day! Wait a minute! Hold on! YOU MEAN THE GOVERNMENT WOULD
PAY ME !