Among no class of reformers do we find more clear thinking or a sounder political economy than among the "single-taxers." Following the writings of the late Henry George there is a considerable and important literature upon this subject. Land monopoly and speculation should be stopped. Labor should not be taxed. The resources of nature should be made to minister equitably to the whole people. Now the weakest pay the most tax. It should be the strongest and they whom the government most benefits.
A Baltimore Instance
A single tax man of Baltimore, Mr John Salmon, expresses no little surprise that Senator Hanna's candidate for governor of Ohio supposes that the single tax has been a disastrous failure wherever tried. Of Mr Herrick and his notion Mr Salmon writes: This stamps him as being a twisted thinker and a loose observer. The single tax is in operation all over the United States, flowing into the pockets of private individuals, which is what single taxers object to. Here in Baltimore more than in any other section of the country, it is strongly apparent. We have the ground rent system in operation, 90 percent of the real estate being held on leaseholds. The custom is an old English one grafted on the Maryland colonies by Lord Baltimore and his English compeers, and it has grown and flourished like a green bay tree. When one buys a home here it is in nine cases out of ten subject to a ground rent. These ground rents are dealt in as a form of investment the same as a mortgage or any other form of investment; but the point to observe is that they are a single tax, pure and simple, the price paid for the use of the ground per se and for ground only.
Our last assessment separated the value of the land from the value of improvements, and it is done every day in our community. Baltimore has more houses per capita than any city in the country, due to the ground rent system; and a house costing $1,200 to build is very often sold for $800 or $900 in order to create a ground rent ranging from three dollars a front foot to $20 and $40 a front foot. To explain more fully: Bonus buildings are run up on plats of ground split up into lots of 15x90, and a ground rent say of $6 per front foot is put on the lot, making $90 a year ground rent, which the buyer agrees to pay, and in his ground rent is a clause that he will also pay all taxes. This $90 is essentially a single tax. The agreement to pay it is exactly the same kind of a contract that is in vogue in Fairhope, Ala. With this extremely important exception, that whereas we in Baltimore bind ourselves to pay all the taxes, in Fairhope the company or lessor, agrees to pay all taxes. Talk of its being a disastrous failure! Not on your life. Ground rents are as scarce as hen's teeth, and can only be bought on a three percent basis. They command as good a price as government bonds, and it is estimated that $14,000,000 at least is raised in Baltimore alone from this source — nearly twice as much as the city and state taxes amount to. And what is this tax of $14,000,000 paid for? Why, merely for the privilege of living in the city of Baltimore. That's all the payers get for it. And the only kick we've got coming is that the private individuals get that money instead of the city and state.