Wealth and Want
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Rent — Agricultural

Suppose you're a young farmer, and you don't own the land you farm on. What percentage of your gross income do you think the landlord deserves for her effort? What percentage of your net income do you think the landlord deserves for his effort? If a retired farmer can't charge someone else for the use of his land, how is he/she to live in retirement? What about the landless farmer's retirement?

Henry George:  The Land Question (1881)

As for rack-rent, which is simply a rent fixed at short intervals by competition, that is in the United States even a more common way of letting land than in Ireland. In our cities the majority of our people live in houses rented from month to month or year to year for the highest price the landlord thinks he can get. The usual term, in the newer States, at least, for the letting of agricultural land is from season to season. And that the rent of land in the United States comes, on the whole, more closely to the standard of rack, or full competition rent, there can be, I think, little doubt. That the land of Ireland is, as the apologists for landlordism say, largely under-rented (that is, not rented for the full amount the landlord might get with free competition) is probably true. Miss C. G. O'Brien, in a recent article in the Nineteenth Century, states that the tenant-farmers generally get for such patches as they sub-let to their laborers twice the rent they pay the landlords. And we hear incidentally of many "good landlords," i.e., landlords not in the habit of pushing their tenants for as much as they might get by rigorously demanding all that any one would give. ...

... Human nature is about the same the world over, and the Irish Landlords as a class are no better nor worse than would be other men under like conditions. An aristocracy such as that of Ireland has its virtues as well as its vices, and is influenced by sentiments which do not enter into mere business transactions – sentiments which must often modify and soften the calculations of cold self-interest. But with us the letting of land is as much a business matter as the buying or selling of wheat or of stocks. An American would not think he was showing his goodness by renting his land for low rates, any more than he would think he was showing his goodness by selling wheat for less than the market price, or stocks for less than the quotations. So in those districts of France and Belgium where the land is most sub-divided, the peasant proprietors, says M. de Laveleye, boast to one another of the high rents they get, just as they boast of the high prices they get for pigs or for poultry.

The best measure of rent is, of course, its proportion to the produce. The only estimate of Irish rent as a proportion of which I know is that of Buckle, who puts it at one-fourth of the produce. In this country I am inclined to think one-fourth would generally be considered a moderate rent. Even in California there is considerable land rented for one-third the crop, and some that rents for one-half the crop; while, according to a writer in the Atlantic Monthly, the common rent in that great wheat-growing section of the New Northwest now being opened up is one-half the crop! ... read the whole article



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