The bi-monthly to which I refer is The Single Tax Review, whose 1914 volume Google Books has digitized. Here are some of the goodies I appreciate on this reading:
In fact, if a nation spends great sums in improving roads and canals and bettering the public services, these heavy expenditures increase the value of the nation's land, and this increase is taken by the landlords. If artisans, tradesmen, producers of all kinds concentrate in a locality, the money they spend on building, on the costs of living, their activity and even their presence is sure to increase the well-being of the inhabitants of this locality, a result translated into an increase of land values which the landowners pocket. If a manufacturer builds a factory in an uninhabited spot and constructs dwellings for his workmen it may result in ruin for him if he has not carefully calculated his chances, but in the meantime he will have increased the value of the surrounding land and enriched the landlords.
Now here are a few propositions, and a question:
(2) The population of the world is increasing.
(3) The two preceding facts make it inevitable that particular tracts and sites of land will be increasingly more desirable than others.
(4) All of the land is for all of the people; therefore those who wish to occupy the more valuable tracts and sites, should pay the value thereof into a common fund for the use of all the people.
(5) Every man has a natural right to the products of his labor.
(6) Confiscation by the State of any man's labor is a clear violation of a natural right; therefore our present system of taxation is fundamentally wrong. (And the fact that taxes under the present system cannot possibly be, nor have ever been, equitably assessed, is only a logical sequence of violation of verified truth.)
(7) Taxes on any commodity made by individual labor is a tax on individual labor.
(8) Taxes on that which no man has made, which no man can make and -which, therefore, no man has earned, is not a tax on labor.
(9) When the wealth which is created by population is used for public purposes and not for up-building of private fortunes, and when public revenues no longer represent confiscation of the rewards of labor, we shall have taken the road which leads towards pure democracy, and not before.
The foregoing are Single Tax propositions. The Question is: In whose pages, other than those of Henry George, can our friends, the professional economists, find a body of principles of greater "scientific value" than the above propositions? If not in the pages of Henry George, where will they find ideas of greater "scientific value" than those which are directly deducible from self-evident truths?
The "Single Tax" was a name given to the tax Henry George prescribed in Progress and Poverty when he proposed "To abolish all taxation save that upon land values." Even if it is true today that fully taxing land values would be insufficient to meet the revenue needs of government -- and since we've not got a good aggregate valuation of land in America, we don't know -- this tax should be our primary tax, even if it can't be a "single" tax. And besides the awesomely high annual value of urban land, there are other similar things which ought to be treated in the same way: airport landing rights, broadcast spectrum, geosynchronous orbits, water rights, the mining and pumping of nonrenewable natural resources, the pollution of our air, water and atmosphere with agents beyond its carrying capacity, etc. Mason Gaffney has written about many aspects of this.
This next piece plays off a passage in one of HG's speeches ...
(For the Review.)
In a certain desert there is a well. Around it a number of date-palms grow, so that the place is shady and refreshing. From the beginning of time travelers have stopped there to fill their water bottles.
Long ago a poor man pitched his tent beside the well and began to draw water for those who pass that way. Many a grateful traveler rewarded him with fruit or cakes for his humble service. For many years he labored thus and gained the blessings of his fellows.
When he died his son drew water in his stead. But the young man was selfish and grasping. He threatened the weak and flattered the strong, exacting as high a payment as he was able.
One day the king, whose caravan had been overwhelmed by a sandstorm, arrived at the oasis, faint almost to death. And as he lay exhausted on the sand, he offered to grant to the well-keeper any wish in exchange for food and water.
"Sire," said the young man, ''My well is in danger from the savage hordes of the desert. Send me stone and iron, that I may build a strong wall around it."
This request the king conceded; and when he had returned to his capital, he sent a train of camels laden with stone and metal, with servants to build the wall. And he charged the servants to remain and guard the wall.
The wall is built and the servants stand on guard.
When travelers and merchants seek for water, there is one at the gate who demands a toll. And the well-keeper exacts the uttermost payment; so that honest men are plundered and the poor are turned away to die.
But those who cross the desert are murmuring. They cry for justice; and their cry will reach the king. Then shall the king send messengers to his servants and the walls shall be broken down. And they who cross the desert shall regain their ancient heritage.
Whereat the people rejoice.
Douglas P. Boatman.
Monopoly is the enemy. Without monopoly the exploitation of man by man is impossible. And the root monopoly is land monopoly.
If, by taking economic rent for public purposes, we release idle land, and at the same time encourage industry by the removal of taxes, we are respecting the rights of property with scrupulous nicety; and we shall create a demand for labor which will solve the problem of unemployment. The vice and crime which spring from slums as naturally as disease, and are, in fact, disease, will be checked at their source. Remove from the breasts of the criminals, who prey upon society, the ever-present feeling that society is arrayed against them, and that laws are made and administered for the rich, and who can say what forces of regeneration will spring into action ?
We have a faith that our Father in Heaven did not decree poverty, but that it exists because of the violation of His law. We have a belief that poverty can be abolished by conforming human laws and institutions to the great principles of equal justice. And having this faith, and having this belief, we have a destiny. That destiny is to abolish poverty, and in doing so. to fire a beacon that will light the whole world !
Right in land is equivalent to the right of robbers to a road they have taken possession of, and along which they allow no one to pass without a ransom.—Tolstoy.
There died last month a man hardly known to the real estate world though his fortune in New York City lots is now estimated at nearly $40,000,000. His name was Charles E. Appleby. He began with nothing. The fortune that he amassed is attributed to "shrewdness." This may be conceded—shrewdness on his part and lack of it on the part of others. Another could have done it if he had been shrewd enough. But, after all, is not "shrewdness" as a social asset a poor substitute for justice?
ROOSEVELT'S GUARDED ENDORSEMENT OF THE SINGLE TAX.
We believe that municipalities should have complete self-government as regards all the affairs that are exclusively their own, including the important matter of taxation, and that the burden of municipal taxation showed be so shifted as to put the weight of land taxation upon the unearned rise in value of the land itself, rather than upon the improvements, the buildings; the effort being to prevent the undue rise of rent. — Theodore Roosevelt, "The Progressive Party," Century, October 1913.
You see I do not believe in anyone making money out of land. I agree to their getting profit for their labor and for the actual investment of capital, but not for the use of the land. That should belong to the people. I believe in individuals having land for possession but not for profit. I believe this Williamson building should pay an interest on the actual capital invested on the building itself, but I don't think the land site should yield a profit. If that site were taxed for the full economic rent — for the six per cent which the land owner expects to make out of it — you see there would be no profit from it to the individual—that would go to the State.
I think the Single Tax is all right, except that it does not go far enough. A Single Tax means that the Tax on land shall be the only tax. It does not provide what the tax should be. That would not prevent people holding undeveloped natural resources; as it would if the tax were six per cent. —Representative Robt. J. Crosser in Cleveland Leader.
Among the tributes upon the death of Joseph Fels (of Fels Naptha Soap), one of a number of industrialists who were enthusiastic supporters of the ideas of Henry George, these epigrams were quoted:
- 'We cannot get rich under present conditions without robbing somebody else.
- 'If there was 2% percent tax on land values, I believe that within five years four jobs would be running after three men, instead of four men running after three jobs.'
- 'There is no such thing as monopoly of labor; there is monopoly of land.'
- 'I should like to wipe out that part of capital which is not produced by labor."
- 'I do not believe in anything being taxed that is made by human hands.' "
Today all States live by robbery. When all their resources are drawn from economic rent they will live on their incomes.
and, translated from French,
It may be well in conclusion to review the chief advantages which would result from this reform:
First, the enfranchisement of the people who, no longer having to pay taxes, would be freed from the vexatious and malevolent inquisition of the fiscal agents, and would regain the dignity of free men able to employ their unbounded activity upon all the objects which nature offers them.
Next, the enfranchisement of the earth. The first effect of the reform would be to make impossible the monopoly of the earth by those landlords who do not make a rational use of it and to suppress land speculation, which is the source of a vast amount of injustice. And as a large part of French soil is actually held out of use for indefensible interests, the so-called owners could not keep it and all workers would soon have at their disposal great quantities of land which they would not have to buy but for the use of which they would simply pay rent to the State. At the same time a large amount of capital would become available and producers would make good use of it. Not only could all agricultural laborers work on their own account and form associations fruitful for them and very profitable for the State, but many town workers would be attracted towards work which is more healthy, less exacting, and more remunerative than that they were engaged in. The "decentralization" which economists advocate without knowing how to bring it about would set itself up in the widest and most normal manner, and the well-being of working men and the increase in wages would be established everywhere.
But the most beneficent effect of this reform would be the betterment of morals. The lawmakers by pretending to create right and truth as a mere effect of their will set a profoundly demoralizing example, arousing in all Utopians and ambitious persons the hope of realizing their ideas or interests by merely controlling a majority which will permit them to decree the laws they desire. This leads them to unite and discipline for their own use the too large number of unenlightened citizens who are always ready to abdicate their will in favor of intriguers and who contribute an element of profound moral disturbance and perpetual violence at the heart of society.
From another point of view the governmental robbery is so shocking that a certain number of people see no way of stopping this tyranny save in the complete suppression of all social authority. How this suppression could be made effective, how society could exist without authority entrusted with keeping order, I do not see and those who are partisans of this view would be much embarrassed to explain, but they none the less form a small party which is not as malevolent as might be thought and which makes itself heard. Its programme, purely negative, is vague and elastic enough for vagabonds of the worst sort to join it and by calling themselves "anarchists" to succeed in making their depredations look like political manifestations, an excuse for all crimes under our social system.
And in a thousand different ways the robbery from above provokes robbery below, and the general public which submits to these two despotisms loses more and more the sense of mine and thine, of liberty, of right and of morality in all its forms.
Suppression of the old fiscal iniquity is the only efficient remedy for this deplorable situation.
The immediate effects of this measure would be, as we have seen, the establishment of social peace, natural and moral order and the security and development of the general well-being.
When will good people recognise the fact that poverty is the result of human maladjustments? that God has provided for all his children a globe richly stored with everything that is necessary to the sustenance and comfort of every living soul, but that some have taken possession of those free gifts (land) and therefore some are unwholesomely rich while many are degradingly poor? If "The destruction of the poor is their poverty" it seems to me that the only way to end the destruction is by removing the poverty. To make the lot of the defrauded poor a little less intolerable by feeding and medically attending the children and by doing the many other things these people would do for their own children if they were not poor, is but to perpetuate their poverty, because such measures can only make the good people who advocate them feel a comfortable consciousness of having discharged their obligations to the unfortunate, and also lessens the unrest of those whose murmurings are disturbing respectable society and making people think.
Who can doubt that the poverty of the poor is their destruction, physical, mental or moral? Who in these days dare attribute that poverty to "a mysterious dispensation of providence?" Involuntary poverty is the result of robbery. It is robbery that is producing poverty and disease among the submerged millions, that is slaughtering the thousands of little children who die in Lambeth and elsewhere, and that blasts those who do not find release in early death. Involuntary poverty in all its horrible features and effects— unemployment, low wages, slums, sickness, hunger, vice, degradation, and crime— is the result of the great social injustice of land monopoly, and that evil thing, enormous and powerful though it be, can be destroyed by the progressive taxation of land values.
The Single Tax has for its purpose — it being an instrument only — the opening up of all natural opportunities included in the term land.
It is designed to effect the extinction of poverty by giving to the unemployed the opportunity to apply their labor to the land, and by removing competition for employment to make the wage-worker independent of the hiring employer, save to the extent that work — production of wealth — includes a mutual interdependence of laborer and capitalist.
The Single Tax is an instrument for effecting the resumption of social wealth for social needs — not merely for the needs of government as now administered, but going beyond it, if necessary, in order to take all the land value. It therefore has nothing in common with "the Single Tax limited," save as political steps to the ultimate goal.
The Single Tax aims at the taking of all the value of land because such value is a social creation and is due to the presence of population—the value of land being in a very real sense population value, or community value. Other values being due to labor should he held sacred, and at all events are not needed for community purposes. The Single Tax upon the value of land, and laid according to its value, will give the only solution of the labor question, the problem of the unemployed, and allied problems.
We have described what the Single Tax as an instrument is designed to effect. As to the instrument itself, or method of effecting what has been described, that takes the form of the tax already applied in part, for we now take some land values in taxation. This will be increased until all land values are absorbed. With its gradual application will go the abolition of all other taxes, thus making this tax "single," or the only method of securing public revenue. But it really involves the abolition of all taxes, since the annual value of land, if not paid to the State, must be paid to some individual who holds the title deed, either in annual rent or purchase price.
We need not trouble ourselves as to the validity of land titles, or the metaphysics of the right of land ownership. Land will continue to be owned in the sense that undisturbed possession will continue. But land has never been regarded in the same light as other property, and the primitive perceptions of men are in accord with the conclusions of the highest authorities in law and morals among the most advanced civilized communities.
This is the Single Tax, understandable if not yet understood by all bright children of nine years and upwards, and honest men and women of all ages.
It is opposed by land speculators, and many of those who years ago bought of the Stillcrest, or Lonesomehurst Land Company, a lot at four times what it was worth in the hope of selling it some time in the future at four times what they had paid for it.
It is opposed also by university and college professors, whose ingenious absurdities give rise to speculation as to whether these are meant "on purpose," or are purely congenital.
By THE EDITOR.
A friend of the Editor, not a Single Taxer, but a brilliant man whose mind has been given to other things, said to the writer: "When next you furnish a definition of the Single Tax make one for the man who has never heard of it, who knows nothing of economic terms, and to whom even the nature of a tax is unknown."
Here then to begin: Men have a right to land because they cannot live without it and because no man made it. It is a free gift of nature, like air, like sunshine. Men ought not to be compelled to pay other men for its use. It is, if you please, a natural right, because arising out of the nature of man, or if you do not like the term, an equal right, equal in that it should be shared alike. This is no new discovery, for it is lamely and imperfectly recognized by primitive man (in the rude forms of early land communism) and lamely and imperfectly by all civilized communities (in laws of "eminent domain" and similar powers exercised by the State over land). It is recognized by such widely differing minds as Gregory the Great and Thomas Paine (the religious and the rationalistic), Blackstone and Carlyle (the legal and the imaginative). All points of view include this conception more or less dimly — the peculiar nature of land as the inheritance of the human race, and not a proper subject for barter and sale.
This is the philosophy, the principle. The end to be sought is the establishment of the principle — equal right to land in practice. We cannot divide the land — that is impossible. We do not need to nationalize it — that is, to take it over and rent it out, since this would entail needless difficulty. We could do this, but there is a better method.
The principle which no man can successfully refute or deny even to himself, having been stated, we come now to the method, the Single Tax, the taking of the annual rentable land — what it is worth each year for use — by governmental agency, and the payment out of this fund for those functions which are supported and carried on in common — schools, fire departments, public lighting, libraries, etc., etc. Now if the value of land were like other values this would not be a good method for the end in view. That is, if a man could take a plot of land as he takes a piece of wood, and fashioning it for use as a commodity give it a value by his labor, there would be no special reason for taxing it at a higher rate than other things, or singling it out from other taxable objects. But land, without the effort of the individual, grows in value with the community's growth, and by what the community does in the way of public improvements. This value of land is a value of community advantage, and the price asked for a piece of land by the owner is the price of community advantage. This advantage may be an excess of production over other and poorer land determined by natural fertility (farm land) or nearness to market or more populous avenues for shopping, or proximity to financial mart, shipping or railroad point (business centers) or because of superior fashionable attractiveness, (residential centers). But all these advantages are social, community-made, people-made, not a product of labor, and in the price asked for its sale or use, a manifestation of people-made value. Now in a sense the value of everything may be ascribed to the people, with an important difference. Land differs in this, that neither in itself nor in its value is it the product of labor, for labor cannot turn out more land in answer to demand, but can turn out more houses and food and clothing, whence it arises that these things cost less where population is great or increasing, and land is the only thing that costs more.
To tax this land at its true value is to equalize all people-made advantages (which in their manifestation as value attach only to land), and thus secure to every man that equal right to land which has been contended for at the outset of this definition.
From this reform flow many incidental benefits — greater simplicity of government, greater certainty and economy in taxation, and increased revenues.
But its greatest benefit will be in the abolition of involuntary poverty and the rise of a new civilization. But it is not fair to the reader of a definition to urge this larger conclusion, the knowledge of which can come only from a fuller investigation and the dawning upon his apprehension of the light of the new vision. But this conclusion follows as certainly as do the various steps of reasoning which we have endeavored to keep before the reader in this purely elementary definition.
Immense Value Of London Land.
Land in the City of London is more valuable than almost anywhere else in the world. Not that merely as land it is any better than other land — it is probably worse — but it enjoys the advantage of being in the centre of the greatest city, and the benefits of situation are such that fabulous sums are paid for the right to occupy these sites. The proposed re-assessment of some of the sites on which is built the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange Assurance Association shows that with a rateable value of £109,000 three acres of this land, if sold at a twenty-five years' purchase would be worth £2,725,000, or nearly a million pounds per acre. Land in the neighborhood has been sold for £60 and £70 per foot; that is, at the rate of over 2½ and three millions per acre. Here is a huge value, but to whom does it belong? Actually it is in the possession of private individuals who as such have done and do nothing to maintain it. It is the presence and activities of London's toiling millions and the situation and importance of London as the capital of the Empire, that is responsible for this value — it is a product of communal energy and enterprise, and in justice should be taxed for communal needs. Ever and anon the cry goes up for a relaxation of the excessive pressure of rate burdens on industry. Here surely is a fund which in justice and expediency should be tapped for relief. —London Chronicle.
followed immediately by:
Well, Who Owns The Land Anyhow?
The late Frederick Weyerhaeuser was a remarkable man who from poverty rose to the possession of a remarkably large fortune which was acquired in a remarkable way. When he started out to pick up forest lands and timber supplies, three-fourths of these natural resources of the country were publicly owned. When he died, four-fifths of what had been publicly owned were privately owned. He made the most for himself of the neglects of law and of the betrayals, by law and administration, of a far-sighted public policy. — N. Y. World.