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But I'm not a land monopolist, am I?

It took me a while to understand why landownership is a monopoly, since millions of us own land (many subject to a mortgage, but we consider ourselves owners nonetheless).  Land is different from those things we can produce more of.  If we can produce more of something, supply can respond to demand.  But land is finite in supply.  We can't produce another acre or even a fraction-of-an-acre lot downtown.  We all must rely on what already exists.  It is more like air or water — we all depend on them and we can't make more.

So is the small landholder a land monopolist?  If so, does this make him/her/it a bad person/entity?

As Churchill put it, we do not seek to punish the landlord; rather it is the system we must change. 

All of us operate within the existing system, and there is nothing wrong with trying to succeed within the existing rules.

70% of us own our own homes, and some of us own more than one.  The 30% of us who don't own a home are certainly not land monopolists.  Those of us who own homes in places where land has no value — that is, where no one else happens to want to live or work — would generally not be regarded as land monopolists.  But most of us live in places where land has some value.

X% of us own our own businesses (and another Y% aspire to).  The large majority of those businesses are operated in rented quarters, and on sites which are probably significantly more valuable than the site on which the owner lives.  So, like those who rent their homes from another, most of those business owners are tenants more than they are owners, even those who own their homes outright.

Consider also the fact that urban land, particularly land in the Central Business District, is far more valuable than land on the fringe of that same city.  The difference between urban land and average agricultural land has been pegged as a factor of 100,000 or more.  Yes — 100,000.  An acre of agricultural land in Vermont might be worth $2500 or so.  A one-acre site in midtown Manhattan sold a few years ago for $250 million.  Were that single acre owned by a single family, their land value would be equal to that held by the owners of 100,000 acres — 156 square miles — of Vermont agricultural land, or 1.7% of the state!

Most of us benefit a bit from the existing system, and since our homes are our main asset, it might appear that we are net beneficiaries. But the benefits of replacing land monopoly capitalism with free market capitalism would be a lot larger than the loss of land equity that would begin. Our children and their entire generation would be able to afford homes. We and our children would receive wages that better matched our worth, and might be able to choose whether both parents would work when children were young. Those who wanted to open their own business would face fewer barriers to entry. Most of all, we'd be moving toward being the society we dream of when we talk about the American dream, with widely shared prosperity, and no victims.

Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)

INNOCENT purchasers of what involves wrong to others! Is not the phrase absurd? If, in our legal tribunals, "ignorance of the law excuseth no man," how much less can it do so in the tribunal of morals — and it is this to which compensationists appeal.

And innocence can only shield from the punishment due to conscious wrong; it cannot give right. If you innocently stand on my toes, you may fairly ask me not to be angry; but you gain no right to continue to stand on them. — A Perplexed Philosopher (Compensation)

WHEN a man exchanges property of one kind for property of another kind he gives up the one with all its incidents and takes in its stead the other with its incidents. He cannot sell bricks and buy hay, and then complain because the hay burned when the bricks would not. The greater liability of the hay to burn is one of the incidents he accepted in buying it. Nor can he exchange property having moral sanction for property having only legal sanction, and claim that the moral sanction of the thing he sold attaches now to the thing he bought. That has gone with the thing to the other party in the exchange. Exchange transfers, it cannot create. Each party gives up what right he had and takes what right the other party had. The last holder obtains no moral right that the first holder did not have. — A Perplexed Philosopher (Compensation) ... go to "Gems from George"

Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894) — Appendix: FAQ

Q62. If the ownership of land is immoral is it not the duty of individuals who see its immorality to refrain from profiting by it?
A. No. The immorality is institutional, not individual. Every member of a community has a right to land and an interest in the rent of land. Under the single tax both rights would be conserved. But under existing social institutions the only way of securing either is to own land and profit by it. To refrain from doing so would have no reformatory effect. It is one of the eccentricities of narrow minds to believe or profess to believe that institutional wrongs and individual wrongs are upon the same plane and must be cured in the same way — by individual reformation. But individuals cannot change institutions by refraining from profiting by them, any more than they could dredge a creek by refraining from swimming in it. Institutional wrongs must be remedied by institutional reforms. ... read the book

Winston Churchill: The People's Land 

I hope you will understand that when I speak of the land monopolist I am dealing more with the process than with the individual landowner. I have no wish to hold any class up to public disapprobation. I do not think that the man who makes money by unearned increment in land is morally a worse man than anyone else who gathers his profit where he finds it in this hard world under the law and according to common usage. It is not the individual I attack, it is the system. It is not the man who is bad, it is the law which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy were it not to endeavour to reform the law and correct the practice. We do not want to punish the landlord. We want to alter the law.

We do not go back on the past.  Look at our actual proposal. We do not go back on the past. We accept as our basis the value as it stands today. The tax on the increment of land begins by recognizing and franking the past increment. We look only to the future, and for the future we say only this, that the community shall be the partner in any further increment above the present value after all the owner's improvements have been deducted. We say that the State and the municipality should jointly levy a toll upon the future unearned increment of the land. The toll of what? Of the whole? No. Of a half? No. Of a quarter! No. Of a fifth -- that is the proposal of the Budget, and that is robbery, that is Plunder, that is communism and spoliation, that is the social revolution at last, that is the overturn of civilized society, that is the end of the world foretold in the Apocalypse! Such is the increment tax about which so much chatter and outcry are raised at the present time, and upon which I will say that no more fair, considerate, or salutary proposal for taxation has ever been made in the House of Commons.  ... Read the whole piece

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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper