Nothing in the reform we propose would
disturb property titles. Secure title to land is vitally important.
It is not the possession of
the land that needs to be shared; rather, it is the rent that is legitimately common
property. The land will be put to its best use only if title is
secure, and this is one of the important functions of law.
Years ago, a New Orleans lawyer
sought an FHA loan for a client. He was
told the loan would be granted IF he could prove satisfactory title to
a parcel of property being offered as collateral. No big deal;
The title of the property dated back to 1803. Instead of tracing
back 50 years, the customary amount, the lawyer traced it all the way
back to 1803. This took him three months.
For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to
the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had
acquired it by right of conquest from Spain. The land came into
possession of Spain by right of conquest made in the year 1492 by a sea
captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege
of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Isabella. The
good queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about
titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the
Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus' expedition.
Now the Pope, as I'm sure you
may know, is the emissary of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this
world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made
that part of the world called Louisiana. God, therefore, would be the
owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of
time and of the world as we AND the FHA know it. I hope to hell you
find God's original claim to be satisfactory.
Henry George: Thy Kingdom Come
.. There was a little dialogue
published in the United States, in
the west, some time ago. Possibly you may have seen it. It is between
a boy and his father when visiting a brickyard. The boy looks at the
men making bricks, and he asks who those dirty men are, why they are
making up the clay, and what they are doing it for. He learns, and
then he asks about the owner of the brickyard. “He does not make
any bricks; he gets his income from letting the other men make
Then the boy wants to know how
the man who owns the brickyard
gets his title to the brickyard — whether he made it. “No,
he did not make it,” the father replies: “God made
it.” The boy asks, “Did God make it for him?” Whereat
his father tells him that he must not ask questions such as that, but
that anyhow it is all right, and it is all in accordance with
God’s law. The boy, who of course was a Sunday school boy, and
had been to church, goes off mumbling to himself “that God so
loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for all
men”; but that He so loved the owner of this brickyard that He
gave him the brickyard too.
This has a blasphemous sound. But
I do not refer to it lightly.
I do not like to speak lightly of sacred subjects. Yet it is well
sometimes that we should be fairly shocked into thinking.
Think of what Christianity
teaches us; think of the life and
death of Him who came to die for us! Think of His teachings, that we
are all the equal children of an Almighty Father, who is no respecter
of persons, and then think of this legalised injustice — this
denial of the most important, most fundamental rights of the children
of God, which so many of the very men who teach Christianity uphold;
nay, which they blasphemously assert is the design and the intent of
the Creator Himself. ... Read the whole speech
Poverty deepens as wealth increases, and wages are forced down while
productive power grows, because land, which is the source of all wealth
and the field of all labor, is monopolized. To extirpate poverty, to
make wages what justice commands they should be, the full earnings of
the laborer, we must therefore substitute for the individual ownership
of land a common ownership.*
*By the phrase "common ownership" of land,
Henry George did not mean that land should be held in common or by
the State, nor did he propose to interfere with the existing system
of land tenures. (See Sections 7 and 12, post.) As in this condensation
much of George's argument necessarily has been omitted, the following
extracts from his later work "Protection or Free Trade," chapter
XXVI, are appended to make his position clear to the present reader.
"No one would sow a crop, or build
a house, or open a mine, or plant an orchard, or cut a drain, so
long as any one else could come in and turn him out of the land in
which or on which such improvement must be fixed. Thus is it absolutely
necessary to the proper use and improvement of land that society
should secure to the user and improver safe possession. ... We can
leave land now being used in the secure possession of those using
it. ... on condition that those who hold land shall pay to the community
a ... rent based on the value of the privilege the individual receives
from the community in being accorded the exclusive use of this much
of the common property, and which should have no reference to any
improvement he has made in or on it, or to any profit due to the
use of his labor and capital. In this way all would be placed on
an equality in regard to the use and enjoyment of those natural elements
which are clearly the common heritage."
Henry George: The Crime
of Poverty (1885 speech)
Your use, in so many passages of your Encyclical, of the inclusive term “property” or “private” property,
of which in morals nothing can be either affirmed or denied, makes your meaning,
if we take isolated sentences, in many places ambiguous. But reading it as
a whole, there can be no doubt of your intention that private property in
land shall be understood when you speak merely of private property. With
this interpretation, I find that the reasons you urge for private property
in land are eight. Let us consider them in order of presentation. You urge:
1. That what is bought with rightful property is rightful property. (RN,
paragraph 5) ...
2. That private property in land proceeds from man’s gift of reason.
(RN, paragraphs 6-7.) ...
3. That private property in land deprives no one of the use of land. (RN,
paragraph 8.) ...
4. That Industry expended on land gives ownership in the land itself. (RN,
paragraphs 9-10.) ...
5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of
mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned
by Divine Law. (RN, paragraph 11.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private property
in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (RN, paragraphs 14-17.) ...
7. That the private ownership of land stimulates industry, increases wealth,
and attaches men to the soil and to their country. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature, not
from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take the
value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private
owner. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
4. That Industry expended on land gives ownership in the land itself. (9-10.)
Your Holiness next contends that industry expended on land gives a right
to ownership of the land, and that the improvement of land creates benefits
indistinguishable and inseparable from the land itself.
This contention, if valid, could only justify the ownership of land by those
who expend industry on it. It would not justify private property in land
as it exists. On the contrary, it would justify a gigantic no-rent declaration
that would take land from those who now legally own it, the landlords, and
turn it over to the tenants and laborers. And if it also be that improvements
cannot be distinguished and separated from the land itself, how could the
landlords claim consideration even for improvements they had made?
But your Holiness cannot mean what your words imply. What you really mean,
I take it, is that the original justification and title of landownership
is in the expenditure of labor on it. But neither can this justify private
property in land as it exists. For is it not all but universally true that
existing land titles do not come from use, but from force or fraud?
Take Italy! Is it not true that the greater part of the land of Italy is
held by those who so far from ever having expended industry on it have been
mere appropriators of the industry of those who have? Is this not also true
of Great Britain and of other countries? Even in the United States, where
the forces of concentration have not yet had time fully to operate and there
has been some attempt to give land to users, it is probably true today that
the greater part of the land is held by those who neither use it nor propose
to use it themselves, but merely hold it to compel others to pay them for
permission to use it.
And if industry give ownership to land what are the limits of this ownership?
If a man may acquire the ownership of several square miles of land by grazing
sheep on it, does this give to him and his heirs the ownership of the same
land when it is found to contain rich mines, or when by the growth of population
and the progress of society it is needed for farming, for gardening, for
the close occupation of a great city? Is it on the rights given by the industry
of those who first used it for grazing cows or growing potatoes that you
would found the title to the land now covered by the city of New York and
having a value of thousands of millions of dollars?
But your contention is not valid. Industry expended on land gives ownership
in the fruits of that industry, but not in the land itself, just as industry
expended on the ocean would give a right of ownership to the fish taken by
it, but not a right of ownership in the ocean. Nor yet is it true that private
ownership of land is necessary to secure the fruits of labor on land; nor
does the improvement of land create benefits indistinguishable and inseparable
from the land itself. That secure possession is necessary to the use and
improvement of land I have already explained, but that ownership is not necessary
is shown by the fact that in all civilized countries land owned by one person
is cultivated and improved by other persons. Most of the cultivated
land in the British Islands, as in Italy and other countries, is cultivated
by owners but by tenants. And so the costliest buildings are erected by those
who are not owners of the land, but who have from the owner a mere right
of possession for a time on condition of certain payments. Nearly the whole
of London has been built in this way, and in New York, Chicago, Denver, San
Francisco, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as in continental cities, the owners
of many of the largest edifices will be found to be different persons from
the owners of the ground. So far from the value of improvements being inseparable
from the value of land, it is in individual transactions constantly separated.
For instance, one-half of the land on which the immense Grand Pacific Hotel
in Chicago stands was recently separately sold, and in Ceylon it is a not
infrequent occurrence for one person to own a fruit-tree and another to own
the ground in which it is implanted.
There is, indeed, no improvement of land, whether it be clearing, plowing,
manuring, cultivating, the digging of cellars, the opening of wells or the
building of houses, that so long as its usefulness continues does not have
a value clearly distinguishable from the value of the land. For land having
such improvements will always sell or rent for more than similar land without
If, therefore, the state levy a tax equal to what the land irrespective
of improvement would bring, it will take the benefits of mere ownership,
but will leave the full benefits of use and improvement, which the prevailing
system does not do. And since the holder, who would still in form continue
to be the owner, could at any time give or sell both possession and improvements,
subject to future assessment by the state on the value of the land alone,
he will be perfectly free to retain or dispose of the full amount of property
that the exertion of his labor or the investment of his capital has attached
to or stored up in the land.
Thus, what we propose would secure, as it is impossible in any other way
to secure, what you properly say is just and right — "that
the results of labor should belong to him who has labored.” But private
property in land — to allow the holder without adequate payment to
the state to take for himself the benefit of the value that attaches to land
with social growth and improvement — does take the results of labor
from him who has labored, does turn over the fruits of one man’s labor
to be enjoyed by another. For labor, as the active factor, is the
producer of all wealth. Mere ownership produces nothing. A man might own
but so sure is the decree that “by the sweat of thy brow shalt thou
eat bread,” that without labor he could not get a meal or provide himself
a garment. Hence, when the owners of land, by virtue of their ownership and
without laboring themselves, get the products of labor in abundance, these
things must come from the labor of others, must be the fruits of others’ sweat,
taken from those who have a right to them and enjoyed by those who have no
right to them.
The only utility of private ownership of land as distinguished from possession
is the evil utility of giving to the owner products of labor he does not
earn. For until land will yield to its owner some return beyond that of the
labor and capital he expends on it — that is to say, until by sale
or rental he can without expenditure of labor obtain from it products of
labor, ownership amounts to no more than security of possession, and has
no value. Its importance and value begin only when, either in the present
or prospectively, it will yield a revenue — that is to say, will enable
the owner as owner to obtain products of labor without exertion on his part,
and thus to enjoy the results of others’ labor.
What largely keeps men from realizing the robbery involved in private property
in land is that in the most striking cases the robbery is not of individuals,
but of the community. For, as I have before explained, it is impossible for
rent in the economic sense — that value which attaches to land by reason
of social growth and improvement — to go to the user. It can go only
to the owner or to the community. Thus those who pay enormous rents for the
use of land in such centers as London or New York are not individually injured.
Individually they get a return for what they pay, and must feel that they
have no better right to the use of such peculiarly advantageous localities
without paying for it than have thousands of others. And so, not thinking
or not caring for the interests of the community, they make no objection
to the system.
It recently came to light in New York that a man having no title whatever
had been for years collecting rents on a piece of land that the growth of
the city had made very valuable. Those who paid these rents had never stopped
to ask whether he had any right to them. They felt that they had no right
to land that so many others would like to have, without paying for it, and
did not think of, or did not care for, the rights of all. ...
8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature,
not from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take
value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private
This, like much else that your Holiness says, is masked in the use of the
indefinite terms “private property” and “private owner” — a
want of precision in the use of words that has doubtless aided in the confusion
of your own thought. But the context leaves no doubt that by private property
you mean private property in land, and by private owner, the private owner
The contention, thus made, that private property in land is from nature,
not from man, has no other basis than the confounding of ownership with possession
and the ascription to property in land of what belongs to its contradictory,
property in the proceeds of labor. You do not attempt to show for it any
other basis, nor has any one else ever attempted to do so. That private property
in the products of labor is from nature is clear, for nature gives such things
to labor and to labor alone. Of every article of this kind, we know that
it came into being as nature’s response to the exertion of an individual
man or of individual men — given by nature directly and exclusively
to him or to them. Thus there inheres in such things a right of private property,
which originates from and goes back to the source of ownership, the maker
of the thing. This right is anterior to the state and superior to its enactments,
so that, as we hold, it is a violation of natural right and an injustice
to the private owner for the state to tax the processes and products of labor.
They do not belong to Caesar. They are things that God, of whom nature is
but an expression, gives to those who apply for them in the way he has appointed — by
But who will dare trace the individual ownership of land to any grant from
the Maker of land? What does nature give to such ownership? how does she
in any way recognize it? Will any one show from difference of form or feature,
of stature or complexion, from dissection of their bodies or analysis of
their powers and needs, that one man was intended by nature to own land and
another to live on it as his tenant? That which derives its existence from
man and passes away like him, which is indeed but the evanescent expression
of his labor, man may hold and transfer as the exclusive property of the
individual; but how can such individual ownership attach to land, which existed
before man was, and which continues to exist while the generations of men
come and go — the unfailing storehouse that the Creator gives to man
for “the daily supply of his daily wants”?
Clearly, the private ownership of land is from the state, not from nature.
Thus, not merely can no objection be made on the score of morals when it
is proposed that the state shall abolish it altogether, but insomuch as
it is a violation of natural right, its existence involving a gross injustice
on the part of the state, an “impious violation of the benevolent intention
of the Creator,” it is a moral duty that the state so abolish it.
So far from there being anything unjust in taking the full value of landownership
for the use of the community, the real injustice is in leaving it in private
hands — an injustice that amounts to robbery and murder.
And when your Holiness shall see this I have no fear that you will listen
for one moment to the impudent plea that before the community can take what
God intended it to take — before men who have been disinherited of
their natural rights can be restored to them, the present owners of land
shall first be compensated.
For not only will you see that the single tax will directly and largely
benefit small landowners, whose interests as laborers and capitalists are
much greater than their interests as landowners, and that though the great
landowners — or rather the propertied class in general among whom the
profits of landownership are really divided through mortgages, rent-charges,
etc. — would relatively lose, they too would be absolute gainers in
the increased prosperity and improved morals; but more quickly, more strongly,
more peremptorily than from any calculation of gains or losses would your
duty as a man, your faith as a Christian, forbid you to listen for one moment
to any such paltering with right and wrong.
Where the state takes some land for public uses it is only just that those
whose land is taken should be compensated, otherwise some landowners would
be treated more harshly than others. But where, by a measure affecting all
alike, rent is appropriated for the benefit of all, there can be no claim
to compensation. Compensation in such case would be a continuance of the
same in another form — the giving to landowners in the shape of interest
of what they before got as rent. Your Holiness knows that justice and injustice
are not thus to be juggled with, and when you fully realize that land is
really the storehouse that God owes to all his children, you will no more
listen to any demand for compensation for restoring it to them than Moses
would have listened to a demand that Pharaoh should be compensated before
letting the children of Israel go.
Compensated for what? For giving up what has been unjustly taken? The demand
of landowners for compensation is not that. We do not seek to spoil the Egyptians.
We do not ask that what has been unjustly taken from laborers shall be restored.
We are willing that bygones should be bygones and to leave dead wrongs to
bury their dead. We propose to let those who by the past appropriation of
land values have taken the fruits of labor to retain what they have thus
got. We merely propose that for the future such robbery of labor shall cease — that
for the future, not for the past, landholders shall pay to the community
the rent that to the community is justly due.... read the whole letter
Henry George: The
That Irish land titles rest on
fraud is true; but so do land titles in every country – even to a
large extent in our own peacefully settled country. Even in our most
recently settled States, how much land is there to which title has
been got by fraud and perjury and bribery – by the arts of the
lobbyist or the cunning tricks of hired lawyers, by double-barreled
shotguns and repeating rifles? ...
Either the land of Ireland
rightfully belongs to the Irish
landlords, or it rightfully belongs to the Irish people; there can be
no middle ground. If it rightfully belongs to the landlords, then is
the whole agitation wrong, and every scheme for interfering in any
way with the landlords is condemned. If the land rightfully belongs
to the landlords, then it is nobody else's business what they do with
it, or what rent they charge for it, or where or how they spend the
money they draw from it, and whoever does not want to live upon it on
the landlords' terms is at perfect liberty to starve or emigrate. But
if, on the contrary, the land of Ireland rightfully belongs to the
Irish people, then the only logical demand is, not that the tenants
shall be made joint owners with the landlords, not that it be bought
from a smaller class and sold to a larger class, but that it be
resumed by the whole people. To propose to pay the landlords for it
is to deny the right of the people to it. The real fight for Irish
rights must he made outside of Ireland; and, above all things, the
Irish agitators ought to take a logical position, based upon a broad,
clear principle which can be everywhere understood and appreciated.
To ask for tenant-right or peasant proprietorship is not to take such
a position; to concede that the landlords ought to be paid is utterly
to abandon the principle that the land belongs rightfully to the
To admit, as even the most radical
of the Irish agitators seem to
admit, that the landlords should be paid the value of their lands, is
to deny the rights of the people. It is an admission that the
agitation is an interference with the just rights of property. It is
to ignore the only principle on which the agitation can be justified,
and on which it can gather strength for the accomplishment of
anything real and permanent. To admit this is to admit that the Irish
people have no more right to the soil of Ireland than any outsider.
For, any outsider can go to Ireland and buy land, if he will give its
market value. To propose to buy out the landlords is to propose to
continue the present injustice in another form. They would get in
interest on the debt created what they now get in rent. They would
still have a lien upon Irish labor.
And why should the landlords be
paid? If the land of Ireland
belongs of natural right to the Irish people, what valid claim for
payment can be set up by the landlords? No one will contend that the
land is theirs of natural right, for the day has gone by when men
could be told that the Creator of the universe intended his bounty
for the exclusive use and benefit of a privileged class of his
creatures – that he intended a few to roll in luxury while their
fellows toiled and starved for them. The claim of the landlords to
the land rests not on natural right, but merely on municipal
law – on municipal law which contravenes natural right. And,
whenever the sovereign power changes municipal law so as to conform
to natural right, what claim can they assert to compensation? Some of
them bought their lands, it is true; but they got no better title
than the seller had to give. And what are these titles? Titles based
on murder and robbery, on blood and rapine–titles which rest on
the most atrocious and wholesale crimes. Created by force and
maintained by force, they have not behind them the first shadow of
right. That Henry II and James I and Cromwell and the Long Parliament
had the power to give and grant Irish lands is true; but will any one
contend they had the right? Will any one contend that in all the past
generations there has existed on the British Isles or anywhere else
any human being, or any number of human beings, who had the right to
say that in the year 1881 the great mass of Irishmen should be
compelled to pay – in many cases to residents of England, France,
or the United States – for the privilege of living in their native
country and making a living from their native soil? Even if it
said that might makes right; even if it be contended that in the
twelfth, or seventeenth, or eighteenth century lived men who, having
the power, had therefore the right, to give away the soil of Ireland,
it cannot be contended that their right went further than their
power, or that their gifts and grants are binding on the men of the
present generation. No one can urge such a preposterous doctrine.
And, if might makes right, then the moment the people get power to
take the land the rights of the present landholders utterly cease,
and any proposal to compensate them is a proposal to do a fresh
wrong. ... read the whole article
There is a square in New York —
Stuyvesant Square that is locked up at
six o'clock every evening, even on the long summer evenings. Why is it
locked up? Why are the children not allowed to play there? Why because
old Mr. Stuyvesant, dead and gone I don't know how many years ago, so
willed it. Now can anything be more absurd?*
*After a popular
agitation, the park authorities since decided to have the gates open
later than six o'clock.
Yet that is not any more absurd
than our land titles. From whom do they come? Dead man after
dead man. Suppose you get on the cars here going to Council Bluffs or
Chicago. You find a passenger with his baggage strewn over the seats.
You say: "Will you give me a seat, if you please, sir?" He replies:
"No; I bought this seat." "Bought this seat? From whom did you buy it?"
I bought it from the man who got out at the last station," That is the
way we manage this earth of ours.
Is it not a self-evident truth, as Thomas Jefferson said, that
"the land belongs in usufruct to the living," and that they who have
died have left it, and have no power to say how it shall be disposed
of? Title to land! Where can a man get any title which makes the earth
his property? There is a sacred right to property — sacred because
ordained by the laws of nature, that is to say, by the laws of God, and
necessary to social order and civilisation. That is the right of
property in things produced by labour; it rests on the right of a man
to himself. That which a man produces, that is his against all the
world, to give or to keep, to lend, to sell or to bequeath; but how can
he get such a right to land when it was here before he came? Individual
claims to land rest only on appropriation. I read in a recent number of
the "Nineteenth Century," possibly some of you may have read it, an
article by an ex-prime minister of Australia in which there was a
little story that attracted my attention. It was of a man named
Galahard, who in the early days got up to the top of a high hill in one
of the finest parts of western Australia. He got up there, looked all
around, and made this proclamation: "All the land that is in my sight
from the top of this hill I claim for myself; and all the land that is
out of sight I claim for my son John."
That story is of universal application. Land titles everywhere
come from just such appropriations. Now, under certain circumstances,
appropriation can give a right. You invite a company of gentlemen to
dinner and you say to them: "Be seated, gentlemen," and I get into this
chair. Well, that seat for the time being is mine by the right of
appropriation. It would be very ungentlemanly, it would be very wrong
for any one of the other guests to come up and say: "Get out of that
chair; I want to sit there!" But that right of possession, which is
good so far as the chair is concerned, for the time, does not give me a
right to appropriate all there is on the table before me. Grant that a
man has a right to appropriate such natural elements as he can use, has
he any right to appropriate more than he can use? Has a guest in such a
case as I have supposed a right to appropriate more than he needs and
make other people stand up? That is what is done. ... read the whole speech
Henry George: Thou Shalt Not Steal
What we propose to do is to
divide up the rent that comes from land; and that is a very easy thing.
We need not disturb anybody in possession, we need not interfere
with anybody’s building or anybody’s improvement. We only need to remit
taxes on all improvements, on all forms of wealth, and put the tax on
the value of the land, exclusive of the improvements, so that the
dog-in-the-manger who is holding a piece of vacant land will have to
pay the same amount of tax for it as land of similar value with a
building or other improvements upon it. In that way we would treat the
whole land of such a community as being the common estate of the whole
people of the community.
The people of New York could manage their estate just as well as
any corporation, or any private family, for that matter. But for the
people of New York to resume their estate and to treat it as their own,
it is not necessary for them to go to any bother of management. It is
not necessary for them to say to any landowner, this particular piece
of land is ours, and no longer yours.
We can leave land titles just as they are. We can leave the owners of the land to call
themselves its owners; all we want is the annual value of the land.
Not, mark you, that value which the owner has created, that value which
has been given to it by improvements; but simply that value
which is given to the bare land by the fact that we are all here —that
has attached to the land because of the growth of this great community.
And, when we take that, then all inducement to monopolize the land will
be gone — then these very worthy gentlemen who are holding one-half of
the area of this city idle and vacant will find the taxes they have to
pay so high that they will have to go to work and build houses or
otherwise use the land, or give it away to somebody who will build upon
it, or put it to other productive use. And so it will happen all over
the country. ... read the whole article
Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a
themed collection of
excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)
NATURE acknowledges no ownership or control in man save as the result of
exertion. In no other way can her treasures be drawn forth, her powers directed,
or her forces utilized or controlled. She makes no discriminations among
men, but is to all absolutely impartial. She knows no distinction between
master and slave, king and subject, saint and sinner. All men to her stand
upon an equal footing and have equal rights. She recognizes no claim but
that of labor, and recognizes that without respect to the claimant. If a
pirate spread his sails, the wind will fill them as well as it will fill
those of a peaceful merchantman or missionary bark; if a king and a common
man be thrown overboard, neither can keep his head above the water except
by swimming; birds will not come to be shot by the proprietor of the soil
any quicker than they will come to be shot by the poacher; fish will bite
or will not bite at a hook in utter disregard as to whether it is offered
them by a good little boy who goes to Sunday school, or a bad little boy
who plays truant; grain will grow only as the ground is prepared and the
seed is sown; it is only at the call of labor that ore can be raised from
the mine; the sun shines and the rain falls alike upon just and unjust. The
laws of nature are the decrees of the Creator. There is written in them no
recognition of any right save that of labor; and in them is written broadly
and clearly the equal right of all men to the use and enjoyment of nature;
to apply to her by their exertions, and to receive and possess her reward.
Hence, as nature gives only to labor, the exertion of labor in production
is the only title to exclusive possession. — Progress & Poverty — Book
VII, Chapter 1, Justice of the Remedy: Injustice of private property in land
PRIVATE property is not of one species, and moral sanction can no more be
asserted universally of it than of marriage. That proper marriage conforms
to the law of God does not justify the polygamic or polyandric or incestuous
marriages that are in some countries permitted by the civil law. And as there
may be immoral marriage, so may there be immoral private property. — The
Condition of Labor, an Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII
THAT any species of property is permitted by the State, does not of itself
give it moral sanction. The State has often made things property that are not
justly property but involve violence and robbery. — The
Condition of Labor, an Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII
TO attach to things created by God the same right of private ownership that
justly attaches to things produced by labor, is to impair and deny the true
rights of property. For a man, who out of the proceeds of his labor is obliged
to pay another man for the use of ocean or air or sunshine or soil, all of
which are to men involved in the single term land, is in this deprived of his
rightful property, and thus robbed. — The
Condition of Labor, an Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII
HOW then is it that we are called deniers of the right of property? It is for
the same reason that caused nine-tenths of the good people in the United
States, north as well as south, to regard abolitionists as deniers of the right
of property; the same reason that made even John Wesley look on a smuggler
as a kind of robber, and on a custom-house seizer of other men's goods as a
defender of law and order. Where violations of the right of property
have been long sanctioned by custom and law, it is inevitable that those
who really assert the right of property will at first be thought to deny it. For
under such circumstances the idea of property becomes confused, and that is
thought to be property which is in reality a violation of property. — A
Perplexed Philosopher (The
Right Of Property And The Right Of Taxation)
LANDLORDS must elect to try their case either by human law or by moral law. If
they say that land is rightly property because made so by human law, they cannot
charge those who would change that law with advocating robbery. But if
they charge that such change in human law would be robbery, then they must
show that land is rightfully property irrespective of human law. — The
Reduction to Iniquity (a reply to the Duke of Argyll), The Nineteenth
Century, July, 1884
... go to "Gems from George"
Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's
Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894)
Note 56: The ownership of the land is essentially the
ownership of the men who must use it.
"Let the circumstances be what they may — the
ownership of land will always give the ownership of men to a degree measured
by the necessity (real or artificial) for the use of land. Place one
hundred men on an island from which there is no escape, and whether you
make one of these men the absolute owner of the other ninety-nine, or
the absolute owner of the soil of the island, will make no difference
either to him or to them." — Progress and Poverty, book vii,
Let us imagine a shipwrecked sailor who, after battling
with the waves, touches land upon an uninhabited but fertile island.
Though hungry and naked and shelterless, he soon has food and clothing
and a house — all of them rude, to be sure, but comfortable. How
does he get them? By applying his Labor to the Land of the island. In
a little while he lives as comfortably as an isolated man can.
Now let another shipwrecked sailor be washed ashore. As
he is about to step out of the water the first man accosts him:
"Hello, there! If you want to come ashore you must
agree to be my slave."
The second replies: "I can't. I come from the United
States, where they don't believe in slavery."
"Oh, I beg your pardon. I didn't know you came from
the United States. I had no intention of hurting your feelings, you know.
But say, they believe in owning land in the United States, don't they?"
"Very well; you just agree that this island is mine,
and you may come ashore a free man."
"But how does the island happen to be yours? Did
you make it?"
"No, I didn't make it."
"Have you a title from its maker?"
"No, I haven't any title from its maker."
"Well, what is your title, anyhow?"
"Oh, my title is good enough. I got here first."
Of course he got there first. But he didn't mean to, and
he wouldn't have done it if he could have helped it. But the newcomer
is satisfied, and says:
"Well, that's a good United States title, so I guess
I'll recognize it and come ashore. But remember, I am to be a free man."
"Certainly you are. Come right along up to my cabin."
For a time the two get along well enough together. But
on some fine morning the proprietor concludes that he would rather lie
abed than scurry around for his breakfast and not being in a good humor,
perhaps, he somewhat roughly commands his "brother man" to
cook him a bird.
"What?" exclaims the brother.
"I tell you to go and kill a bird and cook it for
"That sounds big," sneers the second free and
equal member of the little community; "but what am I to get for
"Oh," the first replies languidly, "if
you kill me a fat bird and cook it nicely, then after I have had my breakfast
off the bird you may cook the gizzard for your own breakfast. That's
pay enough. The work is easy."
"But I want you to understand that I am not your
slave, and I won't do that work for that pay. I'll do as much work for
you as you do for me, and no more."
"Then, sir," the first comer shouts in virtuous
wrath, "I want you to understand that my charity is at an end. I
have treated you better than you deserved in the past, and this is your
gratitude. Now I don't propose to have any loafers on my property. You
will work for the wages I offer or get off my land! You are perfectly
free. Take the wages or leave them. Do the work or let it alone. There
is no slavery here. But if you are not satisfied with my terms, leave
The second man, if accustomed to the usages of the labor
unions, would probably go out and, to the music of his own violent language
about the "greed of capital," destroy as many bows and arrows
as he could, so as to paralyze the bird-shooting industry; and this proceeding
he would call a strike for honest wages and the dignity of labor. If
he were accustomed to social reform notions of the namby-pamby variety,
he would propose an arbitration, and be mildly indignant when told that
there was nothing to arbitrate — that he had only to accept the
other's offer or get off his property. But if a sensible man, he would
notify his comrade that the privilege of owning islands in that latitude
had expired. ...
c. The Law of Division of Labor and Trade
Now, what is it that leads men to conform their conduct to the principle
illustrated by the last chart? Why do they divide their labor, and trade
its products? A simple, universal and familiar law of human nature moves
them. Whether men be isolated, or be living in primitive communities, or
in advanced states of civilization, their demand for consumption determines
the direction of Labor in production.67 That is the law. Considered in connection
with a solitary individual, like Robinson Crusoe upon his island, it is obvious.
What he demanded for consumption he was obliged to produce. Even as to the
goods he collected from stranded ships — desiring to consume them,
he was obliged to labor to produce them to places of safety. His demand for
consumption always determined the direction of his labor in production.68
And when we remember that what Robinson Crusoe was to his island in the sea,
civilized man as a whole is to this island in space, we may readily understand
the application of the same simple law to the great body of labor in the
civilized world.69 Nevertheless, the complexities of civilized life are so
likely to obscure its operation and disguise its relations to social questions
like that of the persistence of poverty as to make illustration desirable.
68. It is highly significant that while Robinson Crusoe
had unsatisfied wants he was never out of a job. ...
f. The Single Tax Retains Rent for Common Use.
To retain Rent for common use it is not necessary to abolish land-titles,
nor to let land out to the highest bidder, nor to invent some new mechanism
of taxation, nor in any other way to directly change existing modes of holding
land for use, or existing machinery for collecting public revenues. "Great
changes can be best brought about under old forms."109 Let land be held
nominally as it is now. Let taxes be collected by the same kind of machinery
as now. But abolish all taxes except those that fall upon actual and potential
Rent, that is to say, upon land values.
109. "Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone
To rev'rence what is ancient and can plead
A course of long observance for its use,
That even servitude, the worst of ills,
Because delivered down from sire to son
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing." —Cowper.
It is only custom that makes the ownership of land seem
reasonable. I have frequently had occasion to tell of the necessity under
which the city of Cleveland, Ohio, found itself, of paying a land-owner
several thousand dollars for the right to swing a bridge-draw over his
land. When I described the matter in that way, the story attracted no
attention; it seemed perfectly reasonable to the ordinary lecture audience.
But when I described the transaction as a payment by the city to a land-owner
of thousands of dollars for the privilege of swinging the draw "through
that man's air," the audience invariably manifested its appreciation
of the absurdity of such an ownership. The idea of owning air was ridiculous;
the idea of owning land was not. Yet who can explain the difference,
except as a matter of custom?
To the same effect was the question of the Rev. F. L.
Higgins to a friend. While stationed at Galveston, Tex., Mr. Higgins
fell into a discussion with his friend as to the right of government
to make land private property. The friend argued that no matter what
the abstract right might be, the government had made private property
of land, and people had bought and sold upon the strength of the government
title, and therefore land titles were morally absolute.
"Suppose," said Mr. Higgins, "that the
government should vest in a corporation title to the Gulf of Mexico,
so that no one could fish there, or sail there, or do anything in or
upon the waters of the Gulf without permission from the corporation.
Would that be right?"
"No," answered the friend.
"Well, suppose the corporation should then parcel
out the Gulf to different parties until some of the people came to own
the whole Gulf to the exclusion of everybody else, born and unborn. Could
any such title be acquired by these purchasers, or their descendants
or assignees, as that the rest of the people if they got the power would
not have a moral right to abrogate it?"
"Certainly not," said the friend.
"Could private titles to the Gulf possibly become
absolute in morals?"
"Then tell me," asked Mr. Higgins, "what
difference it would make if all the water were taken off the Gulf and
only the bare land left."
If that were done it is doubtful if land-owners could any longer confiscate
enough Rent to be worth the trouble. Even though some surplus were still
kept by them, it would be so much more easy to secure Wealth by working for
it than by confiscating Rent to private use, to say nothing of its being
so much more respectable, that speculation in land values would practically
be abandoned. At any rate, the question of a surplus — Rent in excess
of the requirements of the community — may be readily determined when
the principle that Rent justly belongs to the community and Wages to the
individual shall have been recognized by society in the adoption of the Single
110. Thomas G. Shearman, Esq., of New York, author of
the famous magazine article on "Who Owns the United States," estimates
that sixty-five per cent of the present annual value of the land in the
United States would pay all the present expenses of American government — federal,
state, county, and municipal.
Q53. Is it true that men are equally entitled to land? Are they not
entitled to it in proportion to their use of it?
A. Yes, they are entitled to it in proportion to their use of it and it is this
title that the single tax would secure. It would allow every one to possess as
much land as he wished, upon the sole condition that if it has a value he shall
account to the community for that value and for nothing else; all that he produces
from the land above its value being absolutely his, free even from taxation.
The single tax is the method best adapted to our circumstances, and to orderly
conditions, for limiting possession of land to its use. By making it unprofitable
to hold land except for use, or to hold more than can be used to advantage, it
constitutes every man his own judge of the amount and the character of the land
that he can use.
Q60. If the value of land be destroyed by the single tax, would not
justice require that land-owners be compensated?
A. No. Land is given for the use of all, and rent is produced by the community
as a whole. To legally vest land-ownership in less than the whole, excluding
those to come as well as those that are here, is a moral crime against all who
are excluded. Therefore no government can make a perpetual title to land which
is or can become morally binding. Neither can one generation vest the communal
earnings of future generations in particular persons by any morally valid title,
as they certainly attempt to do when they make grants of land. There is both
divine justice and economic wisdom in the command that "the land shall not
be sold in perpetuity." In the forum of morals all titles to land are subject
to absolute divestment as soon as the people decide upon the change.
Q61. If a man buys land in good faith, under the laws under which we
live, is he not entitled to compensation for his individual loss when titles
A. There is no sounder principle of law than that which, distinguishing the contractual
from the legislative powers of government, prescribes that government cannot
tie up its legislative powers. Now, land tenures and taxation are so clearly
matters of general public policy that no one would deny that they are legislative
and not contractual in character. It follows that titles to land, and privileges
of more or less exemption from taxation, are voidable at the pleasure of the
people. And the possibility of such action on the part of the people is as truly
a part of every grant of land as if it were written expressly in the body of
the instrument. Moreover, notice was given when Henry George published "Progress
and Poverty," and has been reiterated often since in louder and louder tones
until the whole civilized world has become cognizant of it, that an effort is
in progress to do what is in effect this very thing. That notice is a moral cloud
upon every title, and he who buys now buys with notice. It will not do for him
when the time comes, to say: "I relied upon the good faith of the government
whose laws told me I might buy." He has notice, and if he buys he buys at
his peril. Men cannot be allowed to make bets that the effort to retain land
values for common use will fail, and then when they lose their bets call upon
the people to compensate them for the loss. Read the
chapter on "Compensation" in
Henry George's "Perplexed Philosopher." ... read the book
Charles B. Fillebrown: A Catechism
of Natural Taxation, from Principles of
Natural Taxation (1917)
Q3. What is meant by economic rent?
A. Gross ground rent -- the annual site value of land -- what land, including
any quality or content of the land itself, is worth annually for use --
what the land does or would command for use per annum if offered in open
market -- the annual value of the exclusive use in control of a given area
of land, involving the enjoyment of those "rights and privileges thereto
pertaining" which are stipulated in every title deed, and which, enumerated
specifically, are as follows: right and ease of access to
* water, and
* health inspection,
* fire protection,
* steam and electric railway service,
* gas and electric lighting,
* telegraph and telephone service,
* public schools,
* private schools,
* public buildings --
utilities which depend for their efficiency and economy on the character
of the government; which collectively constitute the economic and social
advantages of the land which are due to the presence and activity of population,
and are inseparable therefrom, including the benefit of proximity to, and
command of, facilities for commerce and communication with the world -- an
artificial value created primarily through public expenditure of taxes. For
the sake of brevity, the substance of this definition may be conveniently
expressed as the value of "proximity." It is ordinarily measured
by interest on investment plus taxes.
Q13. What is meant by the right of property?
A. As to the grain a man raises, or the house that he builds, it means ownership
full and complete. As to land, it means legal title, tenure, "estate
in land," perpetual right of exclusive possession, a right not absolute,
but superior to that of any other man.
Q46. Would it not be confiscation so to increase the tax on land?
A. What would be confiscated? No land would be taken, no right of occupancy,
or use, or improvement, or sale, or devise; nothing would be taken that is
conveyed or guaranteed by the title deed.
Q47. What is the distinction between taxation and confiscation?
A. The sovereign state may appropriate private property of its citizens in
two ways: (1) by confiscation; (2) by taxation. When one particular man by
treason or otherwise has forfeited his rights as a citizen, the land and
houses and personalty of this one man may all be "forfeit to the crown," while
the validity and sanctity of 9,999 other men's rights are in no way infringed.
This is confiscation. On the other hand, when the state, in order to obtain
the revenue to meet the expenses of government, levies tribute upon its 10,000
citizens impartially, this is taxation.
Q48. But would it not be an injustice to the landowner?
A. If it be an injustice to tax hard-earned incomes (wages) to maintain an
unearned income (net economic rent) that bears no tax burden, how can it
be an injustice to stop doing so? There can be no injustice in taking for
the benefit of the community the value that is created by the community.
... read the whole article
Nic Tideman: The Case for Site
The Social Justice of Site Value
The Efficiency of Site Value Rating
How Valuations would be Made
Both for reasons of social justice
and for reasons of economic
efficiency, site value rating deserves a continued place in the
programme of the Liberal Party.
The case for site value rating in
terms of social justice is
founded on two understandings: first, that the value of land in the
absence of economic development is the common heritage of humanity,
and second, that increases in the rental value of land arising from
economic development and government expenditures should be collected
by governments to finance those activities. What is meant by "land"
is the unimproved value of sites and the value of extractable natural
resources such as North Sea oil.
While there may someday be
institutions capable of implementing a
recognition of land as the heritage of all humanity on a worldwide
basis, in the absence of such institutions each nation should
implement a recognition that land within its boundaries is the common
heritage of its citizens. This is accomplished not by making the
nation a gigantic Common or by instituting government management of
all land, but rather by requiring all persons and corporations that
are granted the use of land to pay a fee or tax equal to what the
rental value of the land they control would be if it were in an
The case for site value rating in
terms of economic efficiency is
founded on the fact that a tax on resources that are not produced by
human effort is one of the few sources of government revenue that
does not reduce incentives for people to be productive. Two other
revenue sources that have this virtue are taxes on other
government-granted privileges such as exclusive use of radio
frequencies and taxes on activities with harmful consequences, such
as polluting the air. An economy will be more efficient if revenue
sources that do not diminish productivity are employed to the
greatest possible extent before any use is made of taxes that impede
What makes a tax efficient is that
the amount of tax that is due
cannot be reduced by reducing productive activities. When incomes are
taxed, people can reduce the amount of taxes owed by working less.
They do so, and the productivity of the economy falls. When houses
are taxed, people can reduce the amount of taxes owed by building
fewer house and smaller houses. They do so, and the housing shortage
worsens. But when the unimproved value of land is taxed, there is no
resulting diminution in the quantity of land. Thus taxes can be
levied on land without diminishing the productivity of an economy.
And shifting taxes from other, destructive bases to land will improve
the productivity of an economy.
Subsequent sections explain in
more detail these social justice
and efficiency arguments for site value rating, describe procedures
for implementing such a tax system, and explain why a variety of
potential objections are without merit.
Justice of Site Value Rating
In primitive societies, land is
generally regarded as not ownable.
No one made the land, so how can anyone own it? Ownership generally
originates in conquest. In England, titles to land originated in the
claim of William the Conqueror to own all the land because he was
king. He granted to dukes, earls, etc. the right to collect rent from
designated territories in exchange for their promises to fulfill
various obligations to him. In the seventeenth century the nobility
succeeded in removing all of their obligations to the crown, but they
retained their rights to land. A substantial part of the great
inequality in wealth in the United Kingdom can be traced to ancient
patents of nobility that granted rights to collect rent.
One highly visible consequence of
allowing land rents to be
privately appropriated is that young people find it nearly impossible
to buy houses. The price of a "house," in the Southeast of Britain at
least, is primarily the price of land. If the rent of land were
collected publicly, the price of land would be inconsequential, and
the price of a house would be the cost of the materials and labour
that went into building it. It should be recognized that if the site
value of land were taxed, the payment of such taxes would make it
more expensive to live in large cities than in small towns, but young
people would be better able to afford it because other taxes would be
reduced, and the mortgages to which people would need to commit
themselves would not be nearly as great.
The justice of collecting the rent
of land can be generalized to
the justice of collecting a fee for any privilege that governments
grant to some individuals and not others. The value of the special
privilege for a few that is entailed in planning permission would be
recouped automatically in collecting the rental value of land. A
version of social collection of the value of privilege occurs
in the present government's auctioning of ten-year broadcast
licenses. For the same reason that people are justly required to pay
for broadcast licenses,
- individuals who have the exclusive use of
desirable number plates should pay annually for that privilege.
- Airline companies with exclusive landing rights should pay
what other airlines would be willing to pay for such rights.
who have fishing rights that are denied to others should pay annually
according to the value of those rights.
The general principle
involved in all of these examples is that whenever a government
grants a right to some and not to others, those who are granted such
rights should pay annually, to the government, the value of those
rights, measured by what others who do not have them would be willing
to pay to have them.
Private appropriation of rent and
other privileges makes it
necessary for governments to look elsewhere for revenue, with the
consequence that even persons with very low incomes are required to
turn over part of what little they earn to the state. In justice we
ought to allow everyone, but especially those whose earnings are
lowest, to allocate what they produce as they themselves choose. ... Read
the whole article
Nic Tideman: Peace,
and Economic Reform
These components of the
classical liberal conception of justice
are held by two groups that hold conflicting views on a companion
issue of great importance: how are claims of exclusive access to
natural opportunities to be established?
John Locke qualified his statement
that we own what we produce
with his famous "proviso" that there be "as much and as good left in
common for others." A few pages later, writing in the last decade of
the seventeenth century, he said that private appropriations of land
are actually not restricted, because anyone who is dissatisfied with
the land available to him in Europe can always go to America, where
there is plenty of unclaimed land.
Locke does not address
the issue of rights to land when land is scarce.
One tradition in classical
liberalism concerning claims to land is
that of the "homesteading libertarians,"
as exemplified by Murray
Rothbard, who say that there is really no need to be concerned with
Locke's proviso. Natural opportunities belong to whoever first
appropriates them, regardless of whether opportunities of equal value
are available to others.
The other tradition is that of the
as inspired if not
exemplified by Henry George, who say that, whenever natural
opportunities are scarce, each person has an obligation to ensure
that the per capita value of the natural opportunities that he leaves
for others is as great as the value of the natural opportunities that
he claims for himself. Any
excess in one's claim
generates an obligation to compensate those who thereby have less.
George actually proposed the nearly equivalent idea, that all or
nearly all of the rental value of land should be collected in taxes,
and all other taxes should be abolished. The geoist position as I
have expressed it emphasizes the idea that, at least when value
generated by public services is not an issue, rights to land are
fundamentally rights of individuals, not rights of governments.
There are two fundamental problems
with the position of
homesteading libertarians on claims to land. The first problem is the
incongruity with historical reality. Humans have emerged from an
environment of violence. Those who now have titles to land can trace
those titles back only so far, before they come to events where fiat
backed by violence determined title. And the persons who were
displaced at that time themselves had titles that originated in
violence. If there ever were humans who acquired the use of land
without forcibly displacing other humans, we have no way of knowing
who they were or who their current descendants might be. There is, in
practice, no way of assigning land to the legitimate successors of
the persons who first claimed land. And to assign titles based on any
fraction of history is to reward the last land seizures that are not
The second fundamental problem
with the position of the
homesteading libertarians is that, even if there were previously
unsettled land to be allocated, say a new continent emerging from the
ocean, first grabbing would make no sense as a criterion for
It would be inefficient, for one
thing, as people stampeded to do
whatever was necessary to establish their claims. But that is not
decisive because, if we are concerned with justice, it might be
necessary for us to tolerate inefficiency. But the homesteading
libertarian view makes no sense in terms of justice. "I get it all
because I got here first," isn't justice.
Justice -- the balancing of the
scales -- is the geoist position,
get exclusive access to this natural opportunity because I have left
natural opportunities of equal value for you." (How one compares, in
practice, the value of different natural opportunities is a bit
complex. If you really want to know, you can invite me back for
Justice is thus a regime in
which persons have the greatest
possible individual liberty, and all acknowledge an obligation to
share equally the value of natural opportunities. Justice is economic
reform--the abolition of all taxes on labor and capital, the
acceptance of individual responsibility, the creation of institutions
that will provide equal sharing the value of natural
opportunities. ... Read the
Mason Gaffney: Rent Seeking
and Global Conflict
Self-evidently, rivalry to
appropriate limited rent-yielding
resources must lead to conflict. It has to, because land is not
produced, nor stored up like capital by saving. Modern economics
glosses over this by stressing that land, like other resources, is
allocated by the market. That may be, but distribution is something
else. Every land title in the world
goes back to a taking by
It will be objected that one can
buy in peacefully once a tenure
is firmly established, with alienable titles. There is certainly no
intent to deny this. The problem is that a successor-in-interest
stands on no firmer footing than the original. There is no
laundering: every landholder can consult his chain of title and see
how it originated.. Indeed, it has been said that those who buy
stolen property are the chief cause of crime. Fencing itself is a
However one may side on that
question, it helps account for the
extreme alarm with which US statecraft startles at any foreign
country, however weak and innocuous, which expropriates any such
successor-in-interest. Demonstration effects are contagious and
threatening. The defensiveness of the insecure is a major cause of
destabilizing yet is the ambitious
rent-seeker offshore, who
finds his biggest gains in the riskiest ways, ways that unfortunately
impose high risks on the U.S. The biggest gains to rent-seekers come
from buying in on the ground floor, cheap, when tenures are
precarious or uncertain. ... Read
the whole article
Karl Williams: Social Justice In
Australia: ADVANCED KIT - Part 2
WILL OWN THE LAND?
justice to be done between men it is not necessary for the State to
take the land; it is only necessary to take its rent." - Henry
George, (1839 -1897)
The above quote just about says it all. However, because of a
of misinformation about this aspect of Geonomics (with a liberal
sprinkling of half-baked, alarmist words such as socialisation,
nationalisation or confiscation with respect to land), we need to get
Land titles would definitely still exist with Geonomics. People
still have "their" home and "their" privacy, and there's nothing unfair
or unreasonable about that. Indeed, it is a universal human need that
cannot be denied and should not be thwarted. Importantly, land
occupancy requires not so much absolute and outright ownership, but
security of tenure, and as a corollary, the freedom to do as one wishes
with the site, within the limits of course, of existing social mores.
Whether building a house, enrolling your kids in the nearby school, or
just wanting to contribute towards building up a neighbourhood, you
would want to know that you would be able to occupy your home site for
as long as you wished. Hence, your name would still be on a register of
land titles, and no one could compulsorily buy or force you out as long
as you paid your community dues in the form of LVT. Council by-laws
allowing, you could even put up fences and "Keep Out" signs. All the
trappings of present-day land ownership would still be there.
WHAT IS OWNERSHIP?
But what does "ownership" really mean?
- Do we own our income if the government takes a big cut of
it and calls it taxation?
- Are we all part-owners of urban infrastructure and
- Do we fully own our cars if we have to pay registration
insurance, or if we are subject to all sorts of restrictions on their
- Can we be said to fully own our personal assets if
inheritance taxes take a big chunk of their value when we drop off the
- If you employ people, can you say that you own part of
their time (and that you own them to a degree)?
The point is that the concept of
ownership is not always black and white, and the same applies to land
On the one hand, occupiers of land would be owners in the sense
they would have the legal security of tenure as well as all the privacy
and personal liberty today accruing to home ownership. On the other
hand, occupiers would be required to discharge their dues to the
community for their exclusive occupancy of land, the value of which
they did not produce. So with Geonomics, what people do not "own" is
the community-created benefits of the land they occupy, for which they
would have to pay.
BUT WHAT'S YOURS IS YOURS!
But don't forget these important points. Occupiers will
own outright their houses and other improvements to their homes - and
they would never get penalised for improvements through local rates,
which today are often partly based on the value of improvements. Nor
will people see a part of their income or purchases confiscated through
the tax system. Effectively, we would all become co-owners of all the
land and natural resources, as the rent from them is pooled into the
community coffers for the benefit of all. By some calculations we could
even receive a considerable Citizen's Dividend from the unspent surplus.
What about those who might be disadvantaged by the introduction
Geonomics? It should be stressed that there would be few such people,
but there would be a few deserving types who would qualify for schemes
(too detailed to mention here) such as limited compensation or deferral
of LVT for some on valuable land with low incomes and too old or
incapacitated for employment. There is no reason why other types of
pensions and disability payments would need to change.
another man has no land, my title to mine, and your title to yours, is
at once vitiated." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1803 -1882), noted
American poet and essayist... Read the
a synopsis of Robert V. Andelson and James M. Dawsey: From
Wasteland to Promised land:
Liberation Theology for a Post-Marxist World
Some defenders of the status quo
that all land titles may be traced either to acts of force or fraud (or
to the more respectable-sounding "priority of occupation"). But, they
add, we cannot start over; society has for centuries given legal
sanction to private landed property. Innumerable contracts have been
executed on the basis of this sanction, and these include the good
faith purchase of land. For society to withdraw this sanction, they
claim, would be a breach of trust.
passage of time, however, cannot turn a wrong into a right. Kings and popes and governments
never had the moral right to vest in perpetual ownership what God
intended for the benefit of all. If the acquisition of a
benefit under the law were to establish such a vested right, no law
could ever be amended, since it would invariably work to someone's
Obviously, change that further rends the fabric of society is
self-defeating. And the vast majority of beneficiaries of unjust
structures -- the beleagured middle classes -- are not intentional
wrongdoers but passive recipients of unearned wealth from a flawed
system they did not create. The dismantling of these structures,
therefore, should, whenever possible, be done in ways that avoid
excessive hardship for them. But it must be done. Read the whole synopsis
Robert V. Andelson Henry
George and the Reconstruction of Capitalism
Under Henry George's system,
private land titles would not be
disturbed one iota. No one would be expropriated. Instead, the
community would simply take something approaching the total annual
economic rent of land for public purposes. This amount would be
determined by the value of each site on the free market, not by any
arbitrary governmental fiat. In other words, the privilege of
monopolizing a site is a benefit received from society and for which
society should be fully compensated; and so, under the Georgist
system, the person who wished to monopolize a site would pay a rent
for it to the community, approaching 100 percent of its annual rental
value, exclusive of improvements.
Let me emphasize that last phrase,
"exclusive of improvements."
- The apartment house owner would pay the full value of his
and nothing on his building;
- the factory owner would pay the full value of his site,
nothing on his factory;
- the farmer would pay the full value of his ground, and
his structures or his crop, his livestock or his machinery;
- the homeowner would pay the full value of his lot, and
If the land had no market value,
the owner would pay nothing; if
it had a value, he would pay regardless of whether he were using it
or deriving income from it. Read
the whole article
Edmund Vance Cooke: Uncivilized
An ancient ape, once on a time,
Disliked exceedingly to climb,
And so he picked him out a tree
And said, "Now this belongs to me.
I have a hunch that monks are mutts
And I can make them gather nuts
And bring the bulk of them to me,
By claiming title to this tree."
He took a green leaf and a reed
And wrote himself a title deed,
Proclaiming pompously and slow:
"All monkeys by these presents know". ... Read
the whole poem
Nic Tideman: Private Possession
as an Alternative to Rental and Private Ownership for Agricultural Land
One of the reasons that the debate is so fierce between the advocates of
rental and the advocates of private ownership of agricultural land is that
each position has important strengths as well as important weaknesses. This
paper argues that there is a third possibility between rental and private
ownership that retains the strengths of both while avoiding the weaknesses
of both. The third
possibility is private possession of land.
I. The Concept of Private
Possession of Land
Like private ownership, a system of private possession of land involves
titles to land that have no termination date and are freely transferable.
Therefore the possessor of land can be confident of receiving the full benefit
of any improvements that are made to land. Like rental, a system of private
possession of land involves an obligation to make regular payments to the
government for the use of land. However, the payment is not for the full
rental value of land, but only for the rental value that land would have
in an unimproved condition. This collection by the government of the value
that is provided by nature and location gives recognition to the idea that
land is the common heritage of all generations, and should be available to
all generations on the same terms. It insures that prices for titles of possession
will correspond only to the cost of improvements, and will therefore not
be excessive. It eliminates the profit from land speculation. And it provides
a continuing source of government revenue. ...
Transfer Titles of Possession
Proposals for systems of private ownership of land often include a proposal
that sales of land be prohibited for some period such as ten years. That
such a restriction would be proposed suggests that the advocates of private
ownership are aware of the impropriety of large private gains from land speculation.
But a temporary ban on sales does not solve the problem of private gains
from land speculation. At best, it postpones it. If people are permitted
to rent land out, they can profit from this and then later sell the land.
And when they do sell it, very large speculative gains can occur. If they
are not permitted to rent land out, then the system implies that land cannot
be transferred to those who could use it best. Economic efficiency requires
that the right to use land be freely transferable. A system of private possession
permits free transferability without large speculative gains. ... read
the whole article
Nic Tideman: The
Morality of Taxation: The Local Case
But is such a tax fair? Consider first a case in which everyone has
the same number of children. Then the taxation of land value to finance
is equivalent to the assertion of an equal claim of everybody to land.
And there is a good basis for such a claim. No one made the land. The
titles to land that we recognize today generally originated in conquest.
for the words of the Declaration of Independence, that "All men are created
equal," in conjunction with the recognition that titles to land are
privileges that are created by government, should lead us to the implication
we have an obligation to share the benefits of land equally. As Henry
George pointed out (1960 , 403-407), the sensible way to assert
to land is not to divide the land equally, but rather to collect the
rent of land and use it for public purposes. A tax on land takes for
purposes only what nature, public services, and the growth of communities
produce, unlike taxes on labor and capital, which take what people
produce and which people may properly resent having taken from them.
Thus, at least
when everyone has the same number of children, it is fair to finance
education by taxing land. ... read the