Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Home Essential Documents Themes All Documents Authors Glossary Links Contact Us


Land Value Taxation as a Social Reform

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


But the single tax is more than a revenue system. Great as are its merits in this respect, they are but incidental to its character as a social reform.31 And that some social reform, which shall be simple in method but fundamental in character, is most urgently needed we have only to look about us to see.

Poverty is widespread and pitiable. This we know. Its general manifestations are so common that even good men look upon it as a providential provision for enabling the rich to drive camels through needles' eyes by exercising the modern virtue of organized giving.32 Its occasional manifestations in recurring periods of "hard times"33 are like epidemics of a virulent disease, which excite even the most contented to ask if they may not be the next victims. Its spasms of violence threaten society with anarchy on the one hand, and, through panic-stricken efforts at restraint, with loss of liberty on the other. And it persists and deepens despite the continuous increase of wealth producing power.34

That much of our poverty is involuntary may be proved, if proof be necessary, by the magnitude of charitable work that aims to help only the "deserving poor"; and as to undeserving cases — the cases of voluntary poverty — who can say but that they, if not due to birth and training in the environs of degraded poverty, 35 are the despairing culminations of long-continued struggles for respectable independence? 36 How can we know that they are not essentially like the rest — involuntary and deserving? It is a profound distinction that a clever writer of fiction 37 makes when he speaks of "the hopeful and the hopeless poor." There is, indeed, little difference between voluntary and involuntary poverty, between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor, except that the "deserving" still have hope, while from the "undeserving" all hope, if they ever knew any, has gone.

But it is not alone to objects of charity that the question of poverty calls our attention. There is a keener poverty, which pinches and goes hungry, but is beyond the reach of charity because it never complains. And back of all and over all is fear of poverty, which chills the best instincts of men of every social grade, from recipients of out-door relief who dread the poorhouse, to millionaires who dread the possibility of poverty for their children if not for themselves.38

It is poverty and fear of poverty that prompt men of honest instincts to steal, to bribe, to take bribes, to oppress, either under color of law or against law, and — what is worst than all, because it is not merely a depraved act, but a course of conduct that implies a state of depravity — to enlist their talents in crusades against their convictions. 39 Our civilization cannot long resist such enemies as poverty and fear of poverty breed; to intelligent observers it already seems to yield. 40

But how is the development of these social enemies to be arrested? Only by tracing poverty to its cause, and, having found the cause, deliberately removing it. Poverty cannot be traced to its cause, however, without serious thought; not mere reading and school study and other tutoring, but thought. 41 To jump at a conclusion is very likely to jump over the cause, at which no class is more apt than the tutored class.42 We must proceed step by step from familiar and indisputable premises. ... read the book




To share this page with a friend: right click, choose "send," and add your comments.

Red links have not been visited; .
Green links are pages you've seen

Essential Documents pertinent to this theme:

Top of page
Essential Documents
to email this page to a friend: right click, choose "send"
Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper