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Sun Yat-Sen

Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925):
The land tax as the only means of supporting the government is an infinitely just, reasonable, and equitably-distributed tax, and on it we will found our new system.

Fred E. Foldvary — The Ultimate Tax Reform: Public Revenue from Land Rent

The German colony of Kiaochow, China, established in 1898, had a single tax on land value set at 6 percent.35 Its principal city, Tsing-tao, developed into a fine modern city. The Germans lost the colony in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I, but their experience influenced the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen, who became head of the government of China. He and his successors in the Nationalist Party were not able to implement land value taxation in that country, but when they moved to Taiwan in 1950 after the communists took the mainland, Chiang-Kai Shek implemented a land-to-the-tiller reform accompanied by a tax on land value. Taiwan has since developed into a major industrial power. Hong Kong and Singapore became major commercial centers in large part because much of their public finance is based on taxing land values, or in the case of Hong Kong, from selling land leases, with low taxes on trade and commerce. ... read the whole document


Stan Rubenstein: Sun Yat Sen's Three Principles, [Reprinted from the Henry George News, June, 1970]

WHETHER revolutions make men or men make revolutions is as debatable today as it was when Thomas Carlyle stated the case during the period of the French Revolution. But one cannot deny that a revolution usually has some individual closely associated with it. We tend to connect Washington with the American Revolution, Lenin with the Russian Revolution and Castro with the Cuban Revolution.

Sun Yat Sen seems to belong to the Chinese Revolution of 1911, for after more than two thousand years of dynastic rule, China, amid the turmoil and chaos of the Manchu dynasty, established its first Republic. And with the emergence of this revolutionary government one man stood out as the leader - Sun Yat Sen.

Prior to 1911 Sun Yat Sen traveled widely, spending some time in Japan and the United States. Influenced by western concepts of industrialization, he carried back to his native land ideas that differed from those normally prevalent in Chinese culture. These ideas affected ensuing events in a significant way.

Of particular importance was his book San Min Chui, or Three Principles of the People. This work is still popular among the Chinese and it cuts across political lines. The proposed reform was embodied in what he called the peoples' principle, and the plans were to be altered or revised as the revolution took various turns.

His concepts of nationalism and democracy appealed to the dignity and loyalty of the Chinese and strengthened them in their resolve to rid themselves of all foreign powers and gain the respect of the international community. Democracy was envisioned to rest with the wishes of the people as interpreted through their leadership.

The principle of livelihood, his third important contribution, was Sun's hope of achieving a desirable living standard for the Chinese based on an equalization of land ownership and regulation of capital. When he was asked what the policy of China was he responded, "We propose that the government shall levy a tax proportionate to the price of the land, and if necessary buy back the land according to its price."

According to this formula the landowners could set the value, and if the value was excessive the landowner would have to pay high taxes. If the value set was too low the government would buy the property. From this point forward all increases in land value would go to the community and increases in value would help defray the costs of government.

Since Sun's ideas were influenced partially by Henry George and partially by Karl Marx, he advocated that the state should regulate capital and serve as a source of promoting industry. He disagreed with Marx's analysis of class struggle however, and attempted to reconcile parts of both systems.

Sun's program was not carried out during his lifetime but it is ironical that the Chinese Communists have been influenced by some of the thoughts concerning the state regulation of capital, and the Nationalist Chinese have incorporated some of his basic views on the equalization of land ownership.

New York Times article, April 6, 1912:

Single Tax Attracts Orient
Dr. Sen's Advocacy Due to Missionaries, Says Henry George, Jr.

Representative Henry George, Jr., has been in correspondence with reformers in China, and the news that Dr. Sun Yat-Sen had begun an active campaign to institute the single tax in China was no surprise to him.

When Mr. George, who maintains a correspondence with single tax leaders in all parts of the world, was asked what he knew about Dr. Dun's declaration, he replied:

"I have known, by private correspondence for some time, that Dr. Sun had not only read 'Progress and Poverty,' my father's book, but was an ardent believer in its teachings.

"Fortunately for the pressure upon his time, Dr. Sun found a translation of the book that suited him well. It was made by Dr. Macklin, an American missionary, who for years has been carrying the Bible in one hand and 'Progress and Poverty' in the other, preaching the Gospel from the one and equal rights for all of God's children to God's earth out of the other.

"Dr. Sun seized upon this Macklin translation and stimulated its circulation among the thinkers of the Chinese revolution.

"It is a curious fact that in this movement toward the single tax China is following the lead of Japan. Dr. Garst was as enthusiastic over 'Progress and Poverty' as Macklin, and talked to the young Japanese in and out of the missionary movement.

"One of the men who was directly, or indirectly at least, reached by Garst was Baron Saketani, who, through the Japanese-Russian war and until quite recently was Minister of Finance. Baron Saketani openly advocated the taxation of land values in preference to any other kind of tax for revenue purposes, and introduced a bill in the Japanese Diet with this end in view. The big landlords, together with the big army and the big navy advocates, were too strong for him, however; and before he could initiate this movement he was compelled to give up his portfolio in the Cabinet.

"From the movement initiated in Japan and China larger things will grow in the future. Japan can raise enough revenue from her land alone to meet all the expenses of Government without taxing any improvements, personal property, incomes, or inheritances, and without any tariff exercise or other sort of taxation.

"It will be seen, therefore, that the American missionaries carried a great economic idea into the Far East, and while they taught the Gospel they also taught the Oriental peoples how better to get a living.

"It will be a very remarkable thing in the history of the world if the United States of America shall be so slow in her economic progress that China and Japan shall show her the way to economic freedom.

"Dr. Sun has shown an extraordinary understanding of the Chinese revolution in addressing himself to the establishment not only of a people's government, based upon the people's rule, but by going deeper and addressing himself to the business of every Chinaman relative to the question of earning his daily bread. By attempting to life the load of taxation from the backs of the hundreds of millions of Chinese laborers and concentrating the whole tax burden on the back of landlordism, he is, at one stroke, liberating production and burdening landlordism. He encourages production and discourages land concentration."

Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925):
The land tax as the only means of supporting the government is an infinitely just, reasonable, and equitably-distributed tax, and on it we will found our new system.

Mason Gaffney:  The Taxable Capacity of Land

Taiwan is another place that "did it," in part. Its present government is what remains of the Kuomintang, founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen on the mainland around 1920. Sun's ideas were abandoned to corruption until the Kuomintang's remnants, discredited and beaten, fled to Taiwan in 1948. Then finally, backs to the wall, they purified themselves. They put Sun's visage on their currency and buildings, and beatified him. They created an efficient, honest government and applied the policies Dr. Sun had prescribed long ago for all China. Sun's basic economic program was simple. He was a convert to the ideas of Henry George, which were stirring the world in Sun's formative years. Tax the land; exempt the buildings, said Dr. Sun. That is what Taiwan finally did; the Taiwanese economic miracle ensued. It is there to see and study. Them as has eyes t'see, let'm see.  

It's not that simple, of course, and certainly not that pure: nothing ever is. That is the gist of it, however. As to adequacy of revenues, they have combined their local land tax with a national tax on land gains, levied at time of sale. These two taxes between them raise a full 20% of all Taiwanese revenues: local, regional, and national. Remember we are talking about a government under siege, with a heavy military budget. We are talking about land prices that keep rising in spite of taxes levied on the land value base. Again, it is there to observe. It is not in America, true: it is even better. It is an American export that took root and flourishes in an alien culture because it answers universal needs. Among the Chinese it also evoked memories of revered statesmen and philosophers, like Wang An-shih, who had implemented land taxation to abet China's ancient glories.  Read the whole article




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Wealth and Want
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